REVIEW: ELIZABETH IS MISSING, BY EMMA HEALEY

18635113What happens when an aging woman begins to lose her memory, bits and pieces at a time? When the past and the present seemingly come together until her identity slowly dissolves?

Set in England, Elizabeth Is Missing is that story, and as it unfolds in the first person narrative of Maud, the aging mother and grandmother, we are soon catapulted into her interior world, almost as if the losses are ours.

Most poignant of all is the terror and fear that Maud feels when she begins obsessively searching for her friend Elizabeth whom she is certain has been taken or spirited away. Perhaps by her son. The feelings are enhanced by intermittent memories of a time in her younger years when her sister Sukey went missing. That mystery haunts her, and as she reminisces, it is almost as if that loss is entangled with the present losses: of her best friend Elizabeth; her own independence; the memories that elude her; and the feelings of invisibility.

Why does Maud feel compelled to dig in the garden? Why does she gather odds and ends into secret containers? Is there a very real connection between the past and the present that could explain these mysterious events?

I totally empathized with Maud, especially since everyone in her life seemed to ignore her feelings and treat her like someone who no longer mattered. I felt her frustration, and even anger at her dismissive daughter Helen. Yes, I am sure Helen’s feelings and impatient behavior were mitigated by the burden of being a caretaker, and that they might also be based on her worries and fears for her mother’s safety.

So imagine our surprise to find out that some of Maud’s behavior might have a strong basis in fact, and are not just the ranting of a paranoid and obsessive old woman.

Every page I turned brought to light new pieces of the tragic events in Maud’s past and present life and her losses, and I could not wait to find out more. An unforgettable voyage that reminds us of the importance of empathy and understanding. Five stars.

FINDING A NEW VERSION OF HERSELF: A JOURNEY — BOOK REVIEW

71RQHbKaIsL._SL1500_When Alice Love falls down in spin class and hits her head, everything in her life is seemingly turned upside down. For once she is in hospital, she realizes that a large chunk of her life is missing…kaput.

Memory is a strange thing. Sometimes it is distorted, and it definitely is different for people living the same moments. What Alice Forgot reminds us that perspective is a large part of memory, and each person’s reality is different.

Finding those lost ten years that she has forgotten, supposedly due to that blow on the head, Alice also rediscovers who she is. Is she the person she was at 29…or at 39? Or is she a better version of herself because of the experience?

Meanwhile, what a great ride this story was for me. I loved how I found myself right in the middle of Alice’s world, rooting for her and for the lost connections in her life. At times I couldn’t stand her three children, especially Madison, who seemed unusually annoying. And Nick was not a favorite of mine either. But as the pieces began to slowly come together and the last ten years were filled in, it was possible to understand everything that had happened to them and how it all changed.

I loved the part of the story where Alice philosophizes about how it is very easy to love in the beginning of a relationship, when everything is light and bubbly, but that anyone can love like that. The kind of love that has gone through things and moved beyond them is a special kind of love that “deserves its own word.”

Another part of the story I enjoyed was Alice’s sister Elizabeth’s journey to motherhood. Infertility and those struggles seem to define her. Her perspective is revealed through letters she writes to her therapist.

And Frannie, the grandmother-surrogate who was there for Elizabeth and Alice as children is sharing stories of her life through letters she writes to her fiance Phil. We learn more about him later….

Beautifully wrought characters that felt so real they earned our love, our hatred, our annoyance…just like people we have known and loved to hate. Five stars.