Elly, Maike Wetzel
Elly was once a sister to Ines, and a daughter to Judith and Hamid. She lives on in the stories told by others and most importantly, in the stories told by her own family. Elly is a curious novella that depicts the isolated roads that we journey through grief, surrounded by others but essentially always alone.
Elly exits the stage with no explanation, leaving only a backpack in the middle of the road to mark her last interaction with a world that had always seemed safe and secure. The fissure that was already present in her parent’s marriage has now widened and the footing her sister Ines felt she always had in her parent’s affection is no longer certain.
When the phone call come and Elly is returned to her parents, the desperation to accept the older version of their missing daughter manifests in different ways for Judith and Hamid. Gone at eleven years of age and back at fifteen, this new individual does not slot neatly back into lives that were forever altered by her loss. The worst was always assumed, but the hope never quite died. The return of Elly does not heal, but further destroys.
Raw and natural in its progression, Elly presents some challenges to the reader with its lack of dialogue and its stream of consciousness narrative. Essentially Elly is a snapshot of the after; a traumatic event has occurred, and the coping mechanisms engaged by those left behind are all unique to character. Each member of Elly’s family operates uniquely within their own grief, with the structure of their new realities not necessarily absorbing the impact the disappearance of a child has brought upon others that they care for.
As it features the thoughts and feelings of children, the writing style is a good match as to how children think and feel in the seemingly endless childhood of their lives, experiencing it all moment to moment, as children absolutely should. The manipulation of parental guilt, sibling jealousies and the need to conform to the ideals of others deemed to be more adult or more enviably placed in the world than themselves are all such huge factors in how children perceive the world, and their place in it.
This immediate narrative flow of the actions and inner thoughts of each character is not clearly delineated, so a little backtracking was occasionally necessary during the read of Elly to determine whose perspective was being relayed. Written in first person inclusive of the imaginings of possible scenarios and explanations as to what has happened to Elly, this novella is a breathless yet mournful rollout of the tides of grief and loss.
A missing child is a nightmare for any family. But what happens when they come back?
Eleven-year-old Elly is missing. After an extensive police search she is presumed dead, and her family must learn to live with a gaping hole in their lives. Then, four years later, she reappears. But soon her parents and sister are plagued by doubts. Is this stranger really the same little girl who went missing? And if not, who is she?
Elly is a gripping tale of grief, longing, and doubt, which takes every parent’s greatest fear and lets it play out to an emotionally powerful, memorable climax. It is a literary novel with all the best qualities of a thriller.