September 2015 is the fourth global World Alzheimer’s Month. This year’s theme is Remember Me. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, it is estimated that 44 million people worldwide are living with dementia. Two remarkable debut novels published last year spotlight unforgettable characters who happen to have dementia.

In Emma Healey’s Elizabeth Is Missing, Maud is a 80-something, English granny suffering memory deficits but still certain that her friend, Elizabeth, is missing. This is high definition dementia. Maud wets herself, wanders dangerously around town alone, makes angry phone calls in the middle of the night, drives everyone around her crazy asking the same questions (how to plant marrows) and making the same declaration (Elizabeth is missing).

Surprisingly, Maud never complains. She sees people’s reactions, knows she has done something wrong (but not what that is) and takes another tack. Resourceful, driven, unyielding, Maud persists until she finds out what happened to Elizabeth.

The story’s timeline moves forwards and backwards, granting equal pages to present day Maud and her post-war young adulthood. Either era would make an riveting story on its own. The bombed out houses, severe rationing and concomitant black market activity, thousands of soldiers moving back home, overcrowded feel of city living during those deprived years, Ms Healey brings to life in a crisp, unsentimental way.

Helen and Katy, Maud’s daughter and granddaughter respectively, are the calibre of people I would want caring for me if I had dementia. Katy’s joking manner with her grandmother is both kind and effective. Helen’s love and patience is not the product of guilt or self-interest; I think she is simply the kind of daughter a woman like Maud would raise.

Elizabeth Is Missing manages to read as an intriguing mystery as well as a faithful biography of dementia. The force of Maud’s formidable willpower pushing against the wall of forgetfulness will have readers cheering.

Although Lost & Found by Brooke Davis maps the path of grief, the route is marked with comedy. Seven year old Millie Bird “knows many things for sure” but nothing about death. Her father has died and shortly after his funeral she has been abandoned at a local shopping mall by her mother. Bereft after the recent death of his wife, Karl the Touch Typist is dropped off at a retirement home by his only son. Since her husband’s passing seven years earlier, Agatha Pantha has not left her house and is experiencing the first symptoms of dementia. Three lost souls desperately in need of being found.

Already a fugitive from the nursing home, Karl has been spending nights in the same department store as Millie. Helping her is a way for him to look to the future instead of the past, a way to make new memories. Despite herself and with dangerous yet funny consequences, Agatha not only leaves her house for the first time in seven years but even travels to Melbourne with Millie and Karl to find Millie’s Aunty Judy.

From time to time the journey to Melbourne narrative steps aside for flashbacks, mostly of Karl’s and Agatha’s lives. In an eerie preview of dementia, Agatha recalls being fifteen when she first met her husband-to-be who was eighteen.

“Her body was taking her places she didn’t want to go, to this strange address she had only heard of as womanhood. No one ever told her what to do once she got there.”

Despite the gravity of Lost & Found’s theme, Brooke Davis explores it with an engaging sense of humour. Karl and Agatha provide most of the comic relief as they shed their “old people” personas on the train to Melbourne. Karl’s run-ins with Derek, the the tyrannical train conductor (he used to be a parking meter officer) and Agatha’s dementia-related non-sequiturs are film worthy.

Brooke Davis is a young writer who “knows many things for sure” and seeds them into a tale as unique as it is heart-rending. Loss happens. Lost & Found’s winning trio models how to let grief move us forward.

Image Credit: Alois Alzheimer and his Co-Workers