Elizabeth Is Missing

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Elizabeth Is Missing

by Emma Healey

Knopf Canada | June 10, 2014 | Hardcover

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An internationally heralded debut novel of extraordinary warmth, insight and humanity that will appeal to readers who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Still Alice: Elizabeth Is Missing is at once a page-turning mystery that takes us from post-war Britain to the present day and a piercingly honest portrait of love and memory, families and aging through the lens of an unforgettable protagonist who will seize your heart--an elderly woman descending into forgetfulness, as she embarks alone on a quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared.
     Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory--and her grip on everyday life. Notes fill her pockets and dot the walls of her home, increasingly crucial reminders of the immediate world. Most crucial is the fact that she can''t find her only friend--Elizabeth has disappeared: she isn''t answering the phone and doesn''t seem to be at her house. Maud, convinced Elizabeth is in terrible danger, refuses to forget her even if her frustrated daughter, Helen, her carer, Carla, and the police won''t listen and won''t help. Armed with an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth desperately needs her help, Maud sets out to find her. And, unexpectedly, her search triggers an old and powerful memory of another unsolved disappearance--that of her sister, Sukey, who vanished more than 50 years ago, shortly after the Second World War.
     As long-ago memories emerge, Maud begins to uncover forgotten clues to her sister''s disappearance and to piece together the mystery that has haunted her family for decades, discovering new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey''s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 3.36 × 2.39 × 0.43 in

Published: June 10, 2014

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345808304

ISBN - 13: 9780345808301

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– More About This Product –

Elizabeth Is Missing

by Emma Healey

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 pages, 3.36 × 2.39 × 0.43 in

Published: June 10, 2014

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345808304

ISBN - 13: 9780345808301

From the Publisher

An internationally heralded debut novel of extraordinary warmth, insight and humanity that will appeal to readers who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Still Alice: Elizabeth Is Missing is at once a page-turning mystery that takes us from post-war Britain to the present day and a piercingly honest portrait of love and memory, families and aging through the lens of an unforgettable protagonist who will seize your heart--an elderly woman descending into forgetfulness, as she embarks alone on a quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared.
     Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory--and her grip on everyday life. Notes fill her pockets and dot the walls of her home, increasingly crucial reminders of the immediate world. Most crucial is the fact that she can''t find her only friend--Elizabeth has disappeared: she isn''t answering the phone and doesn''t seem to be at her house. Maud, convinced Elizabeth is in terrible danger, refuses to forget her even if her frustrated daughter, Helen, her carer, Carla, and the police won''t listen and won''t help. Armed with an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth desperately needs her help, Maud sets out to find her. And, unexpectedly, her search triggers an old and powerful memory of another unsolved disappearance--that of her sister, Sukey, who vanished more than 50 years ago, shortly after the Second World War.
     As long-ago memories emerge, Maud begins to uncover forgotten clues to her sister''s disappearance and to piece together the mystery that has haunted her family for decades, discovering new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey''s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?

About the Author

EMMA HEALEY grew up and still lives in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding (learning how to put books together but not how to write them), which she followed with an MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Elizabeth Is Missing is her first novel. The author lives in London, England.

Editorial Reviews

LONGLISTED 2014 – Dylan Thomas Award “ Elizabeth Is Missing will stir and shake you: an investigation into a seventy-year-old crime, through the eyes of the most likeably unreliable of narrators. But the real mystery at its compassionate core is the fragmentation of the human mind.” —Emma Donoghue, author of Room “I loved Elizabeth Is Missing . In this charmingly clever debut, Emma Healey delivers an empathetic twist on a classic detective tale. Her carefully observed sleuth, Maud, must outwit the trickiest and most elusive of all foes: Her own mind.” —Claire Cameron, author of The Bear   “ Elizabeth Is Missing is a remarkably insightful and gripping debut novel. With consummate skill, Emma Healey portrays Maud as an aging grandmother and as a teenager during the war years in Britain.  The parallel stories about a missing friend and missing sister are equally convincing, flawlessly interwoven, and beautifully written with tenderness, truth and wisdom. The urgency of finding and putting together the pieces of life’s puzzles, whether their loss is due to fractured memory or adult secrets, is a universal dilemma, and it kept me riveted. I couldn’t put the book down until I read the last sentence, and I wondered how a writer still in her twenties could accomplish this feat of storytelling about the intensity of family ties and the deathless power of its love. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
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Bookclub Guide

1. What interesting and complex narrative effects result from Maud's difficulty with her memory? How does the narrative shift between past and present affect the telling of the story? 

2. What is the difference between something or someone being missing, lost, or gone? How does Maud struggle with these differences?

3. What do you think prompts Maud's repeated impulse to buy and consume food? Why the focus on tins of peaches? Why is this impulse a concern for her daughter and carers?

4. To compensate for her gaps in memory, Maud relies on her "paper memory" and leaves herself notes as reminders. In what ways do the paper notes mimic her own scattered memory? What problems arise from this system?

5. After her sister Sukey goes missing, young Maud impulsively collects random, found objects because she "couldn't bear to walk past something that might be Sukey's and not pick it up." What meaning does Maud invest in these physical objects? What role do some key objects play in unraveling the mystery of Sukey's disappearance?

6. In the present, as Maud's memory fails her more frequently and her grasp on language deteriorates, increasingly she finds comfort in physical objects: a silk glasses case from Elizabeth, Sukey's compact case, and Patrick's clothes to name a few. How do these objects help her piece together both the present and the past?

7. Maud starts making mistakes while performing simple household tasks. When this happens in front of others she feels as though she's "failed an important test" and thinks "a little piece of me is gone." What do you think she means by this? Why is this change significant to her?

8. Maud often compares the confusion caused by her failing memory with the post-war experiences in her childhood: being disoriented in her own neighbourhood, worrying about missing and disappeared friends, and the sense of being without food all echo back to this period. How do these two different scenarios of upheaval create such a similar effect on her life? How do they differ?

9. The phrase "Elizabeth is missing" is constantly echoed by Maud throughout the novel as she struggles to discover (and remember) what's happened to her friend. Why do you think Maud finds familiarity and relief in this phrase?

10. As a girl, Maud is discouraged from mentioning Sukey's name at home and finds solace in discussing her sister with Frank who "wanted to remember her properly, with words." Given Maud's later difficulty with words, how does she find ways to search for and remember her sister?

11. Maud is often misunderstood, disregarded, and treated with impatience by the people in her town because of her difficulty with memory. Consider how this is similar to the town's treatment of the mad woman, Violet, of Maud's childhood. How does this behavior affect both women? And what does it mean that this behavior persists in both time periods?

12. Maud frequently repeats words to herself to help her remember things, but admits that "the words begin to lose meaning and are like a chant." How does this difficulty render the mundane and familiar strange? How does this type of everyday mystery add to the story?

13. Against Sukey's wishes, Frank keeps a glass dome filled with stuffed birds on the mantelpiece in their home. What is the significance of this display, and why do you think it inspires Sukey's premonitory terror about being attacked? Why does Frank insist on keeping it?

14. There are several allusions and references to fairy tales throughout the novel and Maud seems to unconsciously takes cues from these stories when she is feeling confused: for example, she imagines herself as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother, waiting for visitors in her home. What other stories are referenced? How do you think they help Maud?

15. Maud often finds herself digging in gardens, searching with a sense of purpose, but unable to remember why and what for. Why does she revert to this type of physical search?

16. Helen takes on much of the responsibility of caring for her mother and has a difficult, often frustrating relationship with Maud. How does Maud's relationship with her granddaughter Katy differ? How does this dynamic influence our understanding of Helen and Maud's relationship?

17. Frank and Douglas are two key figures in the disappearance of Sukey and, as a child, Maud deeply mistrusts them both. However, we discover that both are kind towards others in their own way. How does the resolution to Sukey's disappearance affect your impressions of these characters?

18. What, if anything, has changed for Maud in the story's poignant ending?

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