Eighty-something Maud has an obsession: her friend Elizabeth is missing, and she can’t seem to get anyone to look for her. She tells her caretakers. She tells her daughter Helen and granddaughter Katy. She even walks to the police station and tells them, but no one takes her seriously. Why? Because she has dementia.
At the beginning of the novel, Maud is still living in her own house, with Helen and several caretakers looking after her. Maud’s thoughts jump back and forth in time. One minute she’s in the present, and frantic to find Elizabeth. But a moment later, she is reliving 1946, the year her sister Sukey vanished. Was she attacked by the killer who was terrorizing the neighborhood at the time? Did she leave on a train, since her suitcase was found at the station? Or did her husband Frank kill her?
As the story progresses, the search for Elizabeth and the search for Sukey seem to blend into one. Maud is unfailingly loyal to her missing friend and sister. She may not be able to remember what day it is or what someone said five minutes ago, but she will never forget those she loves.
I found the story fascinating, especially the mystery of what happened to Sukey. Maud’s entire family seemed to be driven mad trying to figure out what happened to her. It reminded me of a woman in our area who went missing a few years ago, presumed dead but without any verification. The other interesting aspect of the story was observing the attitudes of everyone who interacted with Maud – some with frustration and impatience, some with hostility, some with love and understanding. This book is a reminder that none of us is guaranteed normal memory for a lifetime. Thank God if your mind is still whole and functional, and offer kindness and respect to those around you who are suffering with dementia.