Customer Reviews for

The Memory Palace

Average Rating 3.5
( 223 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Multiple Levels of Wonderful

There have been a number of reviews that discuss the content of The Memory Palace, which is indeed rich with the story of struggle, of survival, and of finding one's way out of a quandary that is as difficult as any brought to Solomon. How does a person navigate a life ...
There have been a number of reviews that discuss the content of The Memory Palace, which is indeed rich with the story of struggle, of survival, and of finding one's way out of a quandary that is as difficult as any brought to Solomon. How does a person navigate a life away from, yet intertwined with, a damaged, gifted, brilliant mother who surely loves you? Bartok shows us her navigation through murky nightmares of living with a profoundly mentally ill loved one. She shows her heart rending decision to let her mother go; those of us who have experienced similar decisions marvel at her courage. The way in which Bartok manages to keep a loose tether to her mother, while creating a full artistic life for herself is one the strongest aspects of this book.
The other thing that makes this an outstanding book is its structure, one that requires the reader to look beyond the surface of the book. Bartok's illustrations, and chapters beginning with her mother's letters are deftly juxtaposed with the narrative of her own travails and travels.
There are points at which the narrative abruptly changes, and for a moment you think that that you might have missed something. I find this one of the book's strengths. One of the brilliant parts of the book, the occasional abrupt change of scene where people and places seem to disappear from the narrative, is clearly one of the books strengths, marking it as a work of literature. I see this occasional disjointedness as a literary technique, a brilliant one.
I love this aspect of the narrative, for the few missing pieces seem to mimic the disjointed nature of the writer's life and the literal dislocations described in the book.
Also, it seems to me that the style of writing perhaps mirrors Bartok's cognitive processes while recovering from her traumatic brain injury. Now, I could be reading a bit into this, but there is something of the abruptness of the change, of scene, of work, of lovers, of lands, that in technique, mimics what is happening in the writer's life.
This is an important book. This is a brilliant book, and while completely different in terms of genre, it reminds me of some of the best contemporary long poems wherein the occasional gap and juxtaposition makes the work enjoyable and memorable.
Read the book; savor it; ruminate over it after you are done. A wonderful read!

posted by PoetryDoc on May 6, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

A Mother Abandoned

It is inexcusable how the author and her sister abandoned their mentally ill mother to pursue their own interests. Norma, their mother, pleaded for help, but they changed their names and kept their addresses a secret. They had no contact with their mother for 17 years...
It is inexcusable how the author and her sister abandoned their mentally ill mother to pursue their own interests. Norma, their mother, pleaded for help, but they changed their names and kept their addresses a secret. They had no contact with their mother for 17 years. Mira questioned her mother's whereabouts, what she was wearing in the cold, where she was living, what she was eating - but she never came in contact with her, even the day she went incognito to the home Norma was living. She wanted to see the home, but not her mother. It was not until her mother was dying in hospice that the author and her sister finally came to spend time during their mother's last days.

This book, although very well written, was more like a novel. I did not need a history lesson of the different places Mira went to live. The book brought tears to my eyes of how selfish and self-centered two daughters can be and how they can toss their mother aside when she so desperately needed moral and physical support.

posted by 10497542 on February 16, 2012

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  • Posted August 31, 2011

    This is the touching story of a child who grew up in the shadow of mental illness until finally she felt forced to run away and assume a new identity to escape her mother's madness, the madness of Schizophrenia.

    It is a story of enduring love and devotion, which although sometimes brought into question, was always evident. Mira begins this memoir in her voice as the child, Myra, her real name. The prose is lyrical, almost poetic at times, and it makes you feel comfortable. There were moments when you could almost feel as if you were a witness to the events, as in the final scene of her mother Norma's dying days, which had a great emotional impact. There were other times, however, when there was an absence of the emotional tug that would make you feel completely captivated. With the help of her mother's diaries and other memorabilia that she has found in a UHaul storage facility, Mira has reconstructed the shattered remnants of the many lives that influenced her growing up. Using fragments of her own memories and recollections that stem from paintings and drawings she once presented to her mom, plus sentences from letters she and/or her mom wrote to each other long ago, during the long period of their separation (17 years), Mira opens a window onto the world of neglect and abuse that was her childhood and allows us to glimpse the sadness and chaos that surrounded her life. Always ready to protect herself from her mother's voyages into her fantasies, she is constantly on guard, but also, she is ever mindful of her mother's needs and the "absence of her actual presence", in her life. Abandoned by their father, raised by a schizophrenic mother forgotten by society, surrounded by superstitious and abusive relatives ashamed of Norma's mental illness, Mira and her sister (Natalia, aka Rachel) muddled through their lives until their mother's violence forced them to abandon her, move away and assume new identities. After a catastrophic car accident leaves Mira with her own brain injury involving memory loss and confusion, Mira begins her own journey back to "normal". In trying to reconstruct her life and its memories which have been lost, admitting that some memories may or may not be parts of her real memory, she tries to create a palace in her mind of rooms filled with memories that will trigger others and make her past life more complete. Like her mother, now she has difficulties remembering, but she is strongly attached to the real world and her mother is not. The bonds between herself and her mom were never severed completely, but they were distant and charged with fear and resentment because of her mom's erratic and dangerous stalking behavior. Perhaps she had to run away.perhaps her sister did too, but perhaps they could have done more, while they were gone, to guarantee their mother's safety, rather than simply think it was the responsibility of the state to take care of her and, therefore, justify their own escape. We can not really know the answer having not walked in those shoes, and surely it would be better if there were services available to help people in such devastating circumstances. The one thing that was completely obvious, throughout the telling of the memoir, was the deep bond between Norma, the mother, and Myra, the child, and even Norma the daughter and her own mother as well, who cared for her, albeit resentfully sometimes, until she was no longer physically or mentally able. That bond between mother and child was never broken.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    THe Memory Palace

    Mira has spent most of her adult life hiding from her schizophrenic homeless mother when she gets a call through a friend that her mother is in the hospital dying of stomach cancer. When she finds a key to a storage locker that her mother rents, she finds artifacts from her childhood and memories start flooding back. With this memoir Mira has written a captivating story of a childhood filled with hope and fear. She reads from her mother's journals and opens the reader's eyes to what it is like to live in such a world. This is a book of love and forgiveness and finding truth. I recommend you keep a box of tissues close by.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Interesting read

    Interesting.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    Highly Recommend!

    Incredibly honest portrayal of a mother with schizophrenia and how it impacts her daughters and their relationship with each other.

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    intellectual book

    this was a very mature, exciting and great book. tbis eomen is looney tunes and she needs better help and her life and insstead og her children running they need to try and help her on the for reals

    0 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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