Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Maud may hold the only clues to the case of a missing woman… But she suffers from dementia, and the clues fade in and out of her consciousness. No one seems to want to help her find her best friend Elizabeth and no one believes her when she tells them the woman has gone missing.

But things are not all as they seem in Maud’s world, and the past keeps stirring up into the present. Maud’s sister disappeared decades ago and was never found. Can the two mysteries be related in some way? Why do specific images and memories keep coming to her mind, so close but then sliding back out of reach before she can connect the dots? Does the truth about the missing women live inside a grandmother with advanced dementia who will stop at nothing until the truth resurfaces for once and for all?

Elizabeth is missing by Emma Healey was a special read for me because I too have loved a grandmother who suffered much like Maud. The unreliable narrator tests your patience brutally, and the choppy stream of consciousness is highly irregular for a mystery novel. But if you love women’s fiction and suspense novels, and you think you have what it takes to follow endearing, sassy, confused Maud through her story, I highly recommend the book.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant, came up as a recommendation on one of my many booklover sites (I believe it was librarything.com but it could have been goodreads.com). I read The Red Tent a year or two ago and found it gripping and heart-wrenching, so I approached The Boston Girl, by the same author, Anita Diamant, with caution. I thought it was likely that I would love the book but I was afraid of the commitment. Am I the only one who has that problem sometimes? The struggle is real.

Anyways, I buckled down and read The Boston Girl, and it was just as enticing and upsetting as I expected. Addie Baum is an elderly woman dictating the story of her life growing up in Boston to her granddaughter. The third daughter of Jewish immigrants in the early 1900s, her path was a rocky one, but full of sweet memories, love and good friends.

The Boston Girl addresses the struggle of immigrant families, the nuances of growing up Jewish during a tumultuous time, the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and sisters, the shocking introduction of men and dating for a very naïve young woman, and the pain of loss followed by the warmth of togetherness shared by kindred spirits. If you love books that deal with women’s issues and focus on the feminine, The Boston Girl is a wonderful example…If you think you can handle it. And if you have a box of Kleenex by your bedside. The Boston Girl is not a fun summer vacation read, and not light reading by any standard…But I loved it. And some of you might love it, too.

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik

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The setting is a New England prep school. Everything seems squeaky clean and controlled from the outside…But there are too many secrets. One night, the unimaginable occurs. Sixteen-year-old Nica Baker is killed, her body found in the nearby cemetery. What reason would anyone have to kill a rebellious teenage girl? Her sister, Grace is determined to find out what happened to her sister, determined to find closure so she can fight her own demons.

The sleepy little prep school is hiding some very toxic secrets, ranging from drugs to sex scandals, possibly even leading to murder and suicide. Can Grace sort out who is responsible for the death of her sister? Can she sift through the unimaginable sordid details and find a common vein? Is the killer still out there? Are her own parents somehow involved?

Dark Rooms, by Lili Anolik, will appeal to readers in the Gillian Flynn genres (Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Gone Girl). Definitely for adults only, definitely dark and heavy suspense, uprooting the most miserable aspects of human nature and revealing all that people try to hide from the world. This suspense novel is a top pick for 2015, so if you are in the mood for creepy, thrilling suspense, order Dark Rooms today. If you are sensitive and prefer more “cozy” mysteries, steer clear.

Two Sisters by Mary Hogan

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Muriel Sullivant was the third child in her family. Her older sister, Pia, was a picture of perfection, especially in her mother’s eyes. Her older brother had an impenetrable relationship with her father. She always felt like the chubby, messy, hopeless tagalong. Now that she is an adult, she still struggles to have a deep conversation with her father, and her mother still disapproves of her diet, her job, her apartment, her lack of a love life. She can’t help but wonder why she has always felt so displaced.

One day, her sister Pia shows up at her house and she is bombarded with a horrible truth. Her sister is dying, and she wants Muriel to make sure that her funeral wishes are carried out. Muriel is blown away, but she cannot deny her sister a final wish…Then comes the biggest blow…She also wants Muriel to keep it a secret that she’s dying, from everyone…Including their mother. Muriel assents to her sister’s request, but the pressure of the situation leads her to dig a little deeper into her family’s past and secrets. And what she discovers after her sister dies is life-changing.

Two Sisters, by Mary Hogan, is ripe with growing pains and the usual emotions on the journey of sisterhood, but if you are hoping for something cozy and sweet and “girl-power”, this novel will not take you there. Two sisters is raw and heart-wrenching, and takes the reader to sadder places. Muriel finds resolution-the truth sets her free. Bring your tissue box if you think this one sounds like your next read…And maybe some chocolates too.