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?
unheard music. Salt had caused the grain of the wood to open and pucker and there were holes where knots had fallen out. We used to run our fingers over the walls and feed tiny stones and shells and even handfuls of sand through the holes. I had liked to think of it filling up a bit more every time we came to the beach. And one day the hut would be whipped away, leaving a densely moulded copy in its place. Like a giant sand castle. Letting my parents walk on, I ran a hand over a weathered board,
signs a book on the counter. “Fucking pigs,” she shouts again. I try to block her slurred voice from my ears and slowly drop the last two Polo mints on to the floor. When they’re gone I start on the plastic pearls, breaking them from their string and sending them tiptoeing across the room. I wonder if this hallway’s been used for a film. It’s very familiar. There is a big glass lantern hanging from the ceiling and a shiny black-and-white floor. I concentrate on these things, rather than look at
than half an hour,” Helen says, getting her coat on, despite the fact that I’m still finishing my ice cream. It’s nice and cold against my tongue, but I can’t work out what flavour it’s meant to be. Strawberry, I suppose, from the colour. I’ll need the loo, too, before we go. I wonder where the Ladies’ is. I wonder if I’ve been to this restaurant before. It reminds me of the lovely old Chophouse that Patrick and I used to meet in when we were courting. It wasn’t expensive, didn’t have exotic
see,” Frank said, and he laughed, but still he eyed us, side on, uneasy, and he lit a cigarette with nervous hands, one cuff flapping at his wrist like a greedy seagull. Ma went inside, carrying our crop, and Douglas went on eating berries, but I’d lost my appetite for them. My skin itched where the juice had dried and I felt irritated. I wished Frank wasn’t there; I wished we could have gone on picking blackberries all day, not talking, just gathering, doing something that I didn’t have to make
earth around the pale bones and I feel the same cold creep inside me, and if I had known I would willingly have curled into that wooden chest and kept her company for seventy years. I would never have let her be alone all that time. I would have done anything to be near her the way this bit of glass was. I press it between my fingers, feeling how it has warmed from my touch as if some life has been forced into it. “You’ve seen the body,” the man says. “Or perhaps I should say the skeleton. There