Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

As in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the story is told through the lenses of a certain mental condition that only few have access to. In this case, it is Alzheimer’s that disables the protagonist from reaching what her mind has set before her: solving a disappearance of a beloved one. But whilst providing an old lady with countless obstacles, the disease does more; through forceful emergence of what was trying to be forgotten, it opens the sheer possibility of the task. The past takes lead and shapes present, or what it needs from it, in tailored patterns.

The book shows credibly how losing a hold over continuity of the present necessarily leads to strengthening of an inner world and enforcing its persistence to act out regardless of everyday barriers that slow down a healthy person: fears, others, physical obstacles. The gap between inner and outer, past and present, is sometimes lost in the narrative, but the author reinstates them with the help of a mystery, which gives the protagonist some focus and unity. What would otherwise remain dispersed and hidden from the outer world, is in this way made sensible and given a logic of its own.

As in The Curious Incident as well, it seems that only a peculiar state of mind is not itself enough to make the story interesting. The mysterious hook is needed to lighten up the matter and show the disease in broad spectrum. The tool with which both stories are told is similar to the psychological test where you need to make a castle out of a sheet of paper – what is assessed isn’t the final result itself as much as all the characteristics that one reveals unconsciously by focusing on the result: interactions with others, forethought or rashness, working under time limit etc. So, if all you care about mysteries is who’s done it, you’ll probably be disappointed by the book’s predictability, but that was never really the point.

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4 thoughts on “Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

  1. Thank you for reviewing books in such a beautiful way for people like me whose list of books to read is never ending.

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  2. With many friends who have Alzheimers or who are caring for parents who have it, the book interests me. Thanks for the fair, helpful review. A younger friend gave me a copy and I will put it on my TBR shelf before placing it in my Little Free Library. The review was very well written, by the way.

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  3. Hi Rae, thank you for such a nice comment! Unfortunately it is very relevant indeed, so I hope it will be of some use to you.
    And sorry for such a delayed reply, I had some difficulties with the comment section. Have a wonderful day!

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  4. Sorry for not replying sooner (I have to fix the comment section), but thank you so much, it really means a lot! I’m happy you find enough reason to read anything here.

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