Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf ~ Featuring Matthew Thomas and Emma Healey

By Lynn Willoughby

We Are Not Ourselves ~ Matthew Thomas

Eileen Tumulty has had a very harsh childhood with wild swings between her alcoholic mother and her gregarious, good time father, loved by everyone. When she meets Ed Leary she thinks he will be the perfect partner. He is a scientist, they will live the American Dream.
They rent an apartment in a house with the landlord and his family. Eileen continues her nursing career, Ed continues as a college professor. Eileen dreams of a better home, a better job, better friends, but it all slides into nothingness. It is apparent to the reader that this couple and their son Connell have a bigger problem.
While they try to hang on to their reality – each denying in their own way, the reader is left with a meandering, uninteresting unrealistic story that is several hundred pages too long.
I never connected emotionally at all with Eileen, Connell is a spoiled brat, even at university. Ed’s grip on reality is slipping and he is suffering with anxiety more and more every day. Yet he is the most real and likeable character in the book.
So often the author refers to “the boy” and this was part of the reason I felt no empathy at all for Connell. He shows no compassion or responsibility and I felt nothing for him.
This debut novel has mixed reviews and many readers really liked it. I found it too long, boring, cold and ponderous. There are just so many great books to read I wondered why I bothered finishing this one.

Elizabeth is Missing ~ Emma Healey

“…an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared…” This is the crux of the story and I applaud this first time author for her method. However, the story line was draggy. I just needed more action. But perhaps that’s not possible when the protagonist is an elderly woman.
It is an unusual mix of several genres – mystery, romance, humour and horror. Maude is very likable and the thoughts and memories she cannot hold on to is the stuff of laughter on the comedy channel. Maybe one day we’ll all be relying on sticky notes for our address and phone number and reminders to buy canned peaches!!
What I did find interesting, and very sad, were the indignities, the small frights, embarrassments, the patronizing remarks and limitations that come with old age. The counterpoint was the kindness of the local policeman, the bus passenger and her teenaged granddaughter. Most especially, her daughter’s patience was an inspiration.
Unfortunately, I just found the narrative repetitive and muddled. There are better books out there if you want to read about dementia.

Who Knew?
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgement and behaviour and the risk increases dramatically as a person ages.

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