Elizabeth Is Missing: A Novel
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In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.
But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.
This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.
As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?
Have you got a bit of paper?” She puts out a hand and I give her a blue square. She fishes in a drawer for a pen, writes “Set the table,” and hands the square back to me. “Give me the rest of the notes,” she says. “I’ll put them somewhere safe.” Back in the dining room, I begin to arrange things on the table, mats spaced evenly, spoons above. I pick up a knife and fork and stand thinking for a minute. I can’t remember which side they go. Fork right? Or fork left? I lay them down where I think
rush of something through me; my heart seemed to beat up through my shoulders, my neck, as if it was trying to escape through my head. Douglas put a hand out, steadying me as I staggered. “No. No, Maud, it’s not Sukey.” For a moment I wasn’t sure I believed him, I didn’t want to believe him. “Tell me the truth,” I said, jerking away from his hold. “I know Sukey was in a van. The mad woman told me. She told me before I got ill.” “Did she? It was nonsense,” he said. “Ravings. It’s she who’s in
leave, I think. Get someone else, if you must. I always did the housework myself at your age, but then the younger generations expect everything to be easy.” “Mum, that’s Katy,” Helen says again. “Your granddaughter.” “No. Can’t be,” I say. “Can’t be.” “Yes, Mum. My daughter, and your granddaughter.” She puts the washing basket on the table and shakes out a large piece of material. Some socks fall into the basket. I feel I’ve had a shock, but somehow I can’t quite think what it was. I stare
the shock of it recedes and I can blink again, but I’m too tired to get up at once, so I roll over and rest where I am for a minute. I can see the rusty underside of the railing, and beneath that some gritty-looking paint which has been stencilled into the shape of a fox. There’s soil in the creases of my palm, though I can’t think where it’s from, and the sharp juts of the steps dig into my back. At least I have finally fallen. These steps have always been a worry. And I haven’t hit my head,
me. But Sukey’s things were in the garden, waiting for me, marking the place. Her compact was there, I found it too late, far too late. Now I’ll never find her, will I? She’ll always be missing and I’ll always be looking for her. I can’t bear it.” “Neither can I,” Helen says under her breath. “Right, that’s it. Get out of the car. Wait! I’ll help you out.” She comes and opens my door, and I see we’re the other side of the park, beyond the green-and-yellow house and the hotel and the acacia