The Memory Palace

( 222 )

Overview

“ People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protégé Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and ...

See more details below
Paperback
$10.55
BN.com price
(Save 34%)$16.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (125) from $1.99   
  • New (24) from $1.99   
  • Used (101) from $1.99   
The Memory Palace

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.66
BN.com price

Overview

“ People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartók is told at her mother’s memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protégé Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped.

When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated—Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist—exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel—the haunting memories of her mother were never far away.

Then one day, Mira’s life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life—she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.

Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma’s life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

The Memory Palace is a breathtaking literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness among family. Through stunning prose and original art created by the author in tandem with the text, The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists—or is lost—between them.

Winner of the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Melanie Thernstrom
…like the cabinet of wonders that is a frequent motif here, Bartok's memory palace contains some rare, distinctive and genuinely imaginative treasures.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This moving, compassionately candid memoir by artist and children’s book author Bartok describes a life dominated by her gifted but schizophrenic mother. Bartók and her sister, Rachel, both of whom grew up in Cleveland, are abandoned by their novelist father and go to live with their mother at their maternal grandparents’ home. By 1990, a confrontation in which her mother cuts her with broken glass leads Bartók (née Myra Herr) to change her identity and flee the woman she calls “the cry of madness in the dark.” Eventually, the estrangement leaves her mother homeless, wandering with her belongings in a knapsack, writing letters to her daughter’s post office box. Reunited 17 years later, Bartók is suffering memory loss from an accident; her mother is 80 years old and dying from stomach cancer. Only through memories do they each find solace for their collective journey. Using a mnemonic technique from the Renaissance—a memory palace—Bartók imagines, chapter by chapter, a mansion whose rooms secure the treasured moments of her reconstructed past. With a key found stashed in her mother’s knapsack, she unlocks a rental storage room filled with paintings, diaries, and photos. Bartók turns these strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“A heartbreaking, exquisitely told story of a daughter’s struggle to find beauty and order in the distorted, chaotic world created by her mother’s delusions.”—Jeannette Walls, bestselling author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses

"...like the cabinet of wonders that is a frequent motif here, Bartok's memory palace contains some rare, distinctive and genuinely imaginative treasures. " --The New York Times Book Review

The Memory Palace is not so much a palace of memories as a complex web of bewitching verbal and visual images, memories, dreams, true stories and rambling excerpts from the author's mentally ill mother's notebooks. It is an extraordinary mix. --The Washington Post

"The Memory Palace is almost a fairy tale: two little girls grow up under the spell of their mother's madness. But it really did happen, once upon a time, and Mira Bartók uses her considerable powers of recollection and compassion to understand her family and to present them to readers as complete, loved human beings. This is an extraordinary book." –Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry

“A book of aching beauty and compassion, that circles around the essence of what it is to be alive.” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Ticking is the Bomb: A Memoir

Bartók juggles a handful of profound themes: how to undertake a creative life ...how we remember ...how one says goodbye to a loved one in a manner that might redeem in some small way a life and a relationship blighted by psychosis; and, most vividly and harrowingly, how our society and institutions throw mental illness back in the hands of family members, who are frequently helpless to deal with the magnitude of the terrifying problems it generates. On all counts, it’s an engrossing read." --Elle

"In lyrically elegant prose, The Memory Palace explores not just relationships but the slippery nature of memory itself." -O magazine

"...a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. "--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Mira Bartok’s Memory Palace is a beautifully crafted tale of life with an absent father and a mentally ill mother. As the story unfolds, you’ll see how fine the line is between gentle artistic creativity and debilitating madness. With each new vignette, Mira reveals the wonder and the horror of life in a house ruled by insanity. As the daughters get older, the mother devolves, making her way from world-class musician to paranoid homeless schizophrenic. Despite that tragedy, Mira’s spirit never fails to shine through. You’ll wish you could pick her up, like a little lost kitten, but in the end, she makes it on her own." --John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye

"A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother...Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking." --Kirkus, starred reviewAmong the plethora of books now available by the children of parents with schizophrenia, The Memory Palace stands out. Elegantly written, the book details what it is like to grow up with a mother with schizophrenia and sensitively assesses the long-term effects her mother's illness had on both her and her sister. Strongly recommended. --E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., author of The Insanity Offense

"Mira Bartók’s harrowing and beautiful tale of growing up with her paranoid schizophrenic mother is in some ways a memoir about memory itself. For Bartók—suffering from a brain injury and raised by someone who had tenuous contact with the external world—the question “what really happened” takes on a particular urgency. She answers it with painstaking honesty, weaving deft parallels between domestic and institutional abuse, individual and national trauma. And as she recalls the shattering experiences of her childhood, literally illuminating them with her haunting mnemonic paintings, something that was never intact is made resonantly whole again." --Alison Bechdel, author of Funhouse: A Family Tragicomic

"Neither sensational nor cagily sentimental nor self pitying, this grounded, exquisitely written work...requires reading." --Library Journal

“The Memory Palace is a stunning meditation on the tenacity of familial bonds, even in the face of extreme adversity, and an artist's struggle to claim her own creative life. Bartók carries us, room to luminous room, through her memory palace, filling it with stories that link loss to grace, guilt to love, the natural world's great beauty to the creative act, and tragic beginnings to quietly triumphant closings. This extraordinary book, with its beautiful illuminated images, will stay with me." --Meredith Hall, author of Without A Map

“Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir of loss and recovery, love and forgiveness.” –Booklist, starred review

"the intertwined voices of grief-stricken, articulate sanity and not-so-sane but often quite poetic illness make a duet both wonderful and terrible." --The New York Times

"The ineffable functioning of memory and the brain itself is integral to Bartók’s complex story. She brilliantly teases out the emotional and physical fallout of her mother’s brain, damaged by illness...The fact that Bartók can convey how and why she still loves her mother is perhaps the book’s greatest triumph." --The Boston Globe

"This is a book so strong, so powerful, so richly and dangerously evocative that the pages seem to quiver almost imperceptively, as if at any moment they might leap to life." -- More magazine

"The Memory Palace [is a] cloistered in the multichambered prism that artist and author Mira Bartók creates as both sanctuary and tribute." --The Globe and Mail

Library Journal - BookSmack!
Beginning at the end, we're given a summary: the author's 80-year-old homeless paranoid schizophrenic mother has just flown off a window sill. She survives but then ends up on her deathbed with cancer. This ends 17 years of estrangement during which Bartók went to great lengths to conceal her own identity and whereabouts from her mother. Chilling in its horrible intimacies, this is an amazing rendering of an artist's life surrounded by, and surviving, mental illness. Bartók also reveals her own brain trauma from a car accident.What I'm Telling My Friends All you'd need is to see my copy to know-I have Post-It notes marking phrases and sentences I wanted to repeat because they were so good. About one-third of the way through, I thought that if this book were a person, I'd consider making out with it. Julie Kane, "Memoir Short Takes", Booksmack! 10/21/10
Kirkus Reviews

A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother.

The book is comprised of two intertwining narratives. One concerns artist Bartók's mother, Norma Herr, and her struggle with mental illness. The other examines the author's midlife struggle with a traumatic brain injury. Norma was a gifted pianist whose musical career came to an unexpected end when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 19. In the lucid intervals between the debilitating episodes of her illness, Norma—who married an equally gifted alcoholic—fostered a love of art in her two daughters. In so doing, she gave both girls the tools to survive her illness and their father's abandonment. Throughout their childhood and adolescence, Bartók and her sister used art as a coping mechanism for dealing with their mother's illness. As Norma's condition worsened, escape from domestic turbulence became more difficult. In an act of radical self-preservation, the sisters changed their names and severed nearly all ties with Norma; letters sent via PO Box became the only way they communicated with her. As a young adult, Bartók forged a life as a peripatetic artist haunted by the fear that her mother would find her. At age 40, she was involved in a car accident that left her with a speech and memory-impairing brain injury. From that moment on, her greatest challenge became recollection, which manifested textually as a slightly exaggerated concern with descriptive detail. She and her sister then discovered that their now-homeless mother was dying of cancer, and both decided to see her, 17 years after their decision to disappear from Norma's life. By chance, Bartók found a storage unit filled with her mother's letters, journals and personal effects—a veritable palace of memories. The artifacts she uncovered helped her to better understand her mother, and herself, and find the beginnings of a physical and emotional healing that had eluded her for years.

Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439183328
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 525,918
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mira Bartók is a Chicago-born artist and writer and the author of twenty-eight books for children. Her writing has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies and has been noted in The Best American Essays series. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she runs Mira’s List (http://www.miraslist.blogspot.com), a blog that helps artists find funding and residencies all over the world. The Memory Palace is Mira’s first book for adults. You can find her at: www.thememorypalace.com.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Homeless

A homeless woman, let’s call her my mother for now, or yours, sits on a window ledge in late afternoon in a working-class neighborhood in Cleveland, or it could be Baltimore or Detroit. She is five stories up, and below the ambulance is waiting, red lights flashing in the rain. The woman thinks they’re the red eyes of a leopard from her dream last night. The voices below tell her not to jump, but the ones in her head are winning. In her story there are leopards on every corner, men with wild teeth and cat bodies, tails as long as rivers. If she opens her arms into wings she must cross a bridge of fire, battle four horses and riders. I am a swan, a spindle, a falcon, a bear. The men below call up to save her, cast their nets to lure her down, but she knows she cannot reach the garden without the distant journey. She opens her arms to enter the land of birds and fire. I will become wind, bone, blood, and memory. And the red eyes below are amazed to see just how perilously she balances on the ledge—like a leaf or a delicate lock of hair.

Every passion borders on chaos, that of the collector

on the chaos of memory.

© 2011 Mira Bartók

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 222 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(70)

4 Star

(35)

3 Star

(47)

2 Star

(36)

1 Star

(34)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 223 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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 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!

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 22, 2011

    Thank you for writing this book.

    I have been reading books of this genre, perhaps searching for a way to reconcile my own feeling towards my own mother and her mental illness. I have read Glass Castles, Hopes Boy and now The Memory Palace. Well written, I literally "felt" this book. In the end Ms. Bartok gave me a gift, the ability to accept, understand and let go. Thank you.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2011

    BookHounds

    I had never heard of a Memory Palace before and found that the title for this book fits perfectly. A Memory Palace is created by creating an Escher like space in your brain to link memories to pictures. Mira Bartok uses her mentally ill mother's belongings and journals to create a Palace and takes you through her childhood based on the objects of her mother that are found in a storage container. This memoir is probably one of the best I have ever read and I am amazed that the author keeps a sense of humor, honor and dignity while relating this tale.

    Bartok's mother has suffered with schizophrenia for all of her life and after the author and her sister move out and her home is sold, she spirals downward into homelessness. No matter how much Mira and her sister try to get their mother help, it never works. This becomes so heartbreaking and the grief is evident and yet, Mira tries again and again. When that fails, the girls move away, leave no forwarding address and change their names to escape the nightmare their mother has become. They do reunite when her mother is on her death bed.

    I really recommend this one and while it is a difficult read at times, it is worth the effort. I received this book from the publisher at no charge for my honest review.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2011

    A Beautiful Memoir

    Mira Bartok uses her lyrical prose, keen sense of wonder and detail, and gorgeous artwork to describe her heartbreaking story of life with a beautiful, brilliant, but deeply mentally ill mother. The achingly delicate balance she strikes between fear, love, and compassion will stay with you as you savor every word of her story. This is a complicated told in a loving and understanding way. Beautiful!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2012

    To those lamenting Bartok "abandoning" her mother and

    To those lamenting Bartok "abandoning" her mother and passing judgement, you obviously read this book for entertainment purposes. It must have been nice to come home after school and find cookies and milk waiting for you. After being beat up and ruthlessly tormented by classmates, I came home to a mother crushing her head between her hands screaming for the brainwashing waves to stop. The only safe place I had was a shelf in a linen closet. You may call it abandonment, I call it survival and commend Bartok for her resiliency.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    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. 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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2011

    THE MEMORY PALACE IS AN INSPIRATION & A MUST-READ

    The Memory Palace is brilliant and also an amazing piece of writing. Spiritual, inspirational, beautiful, and heart-wrenching, I can only say what an incredible book it is. Mira is one of two sisters challenged by their schizophrenic, yet brilliant mother, Norma. Mira and her sister are resourceful, thoughtful, angry at times and forgiving. They are fabulously resilient. Mira does her best to portray her mother's brilliant, intense side and makes it clear that that coincided with her mental illness. This is a remarkable, provocative, stimulating book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 21, 2011

    The Memory Palace - A brave story

    The author really put herself out there telling the true story of growing up with a mentally ill mother and their eventual seperation until she finds out that her mother is dying. Loved the book

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 22, 2011

    A book with several layers, highly recommend.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. As someone in the field of mental health I loved how Mira Bartok illustrated the complexities of how mental illness can impact the family system and an individual's life. Beautifully told.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2011

    a luminous life, richly & strangely rendered

    I am not, in general, a great fan of memoir necessarily, preferring novels, poetry, and philosophy as offering a fuller, richer voice, but Mira Bartok's Memory Palace is that rare memoir that is constructed so compellingly and is so richly reflective that it amply repays repeated visits to its many rooms. On the one hand, as with many memoirs about difficult lives, this one too pulls you through the first time with that sort of heart-in-the-mouth sense of "What next...?" And indeed, as no doubt many a book group will be this year, many reviewers have been compelled by and responded primarily to the harrowing details of the lives it chronicles. But Bartok's triumph is that her book is so much more than that. On the one hand, it is a lyrical demonstration of the way beauty and creativity can not just redeem an otherwise difficult life by providing an escape but make that life itself treasured and irreplaceable. In this regard one of the most compelling aspects of Bartok's palace is its generosity: because each 'room' or chapter structures itself not just around an illustration of Bartok's but also an excerpt from her schizophrenic mother's hauntingly brilliant, fractured, sometimes even funny journals, furthermore pairing these two with a fragment of some beloved, illuminating quotation from another author and an introductory meditation of Bartok's on memory itself, the rooms themselves are brilliantly expansive rather than the narrow, airless retreats one so often finds in memoir. Thus the memoir's poignancy comes from the way her palace becomes not just a refuge for her own memories but for the strange, troubling beauty of her mother's mind and life. Moreover, by her method, each room in its own right becomes compelling and individual; as many reviewers have noted, you find yourself wanting to read each chapter separately and slowly, to better savor and ponder its riches. Indeed, I often found myself breaking off my reading to go re-read individual poems or philosophical passages that her chapters reminded me of, and I think many readers will find themselves doing the same -- Bartok's writing is so expansive that it almost invites you to hang your own memory-pictures on the walls of her capacious chapters, even if a reader's experiences have been very different from Bartok's own. In my own case - and this brings me to "the other hand" -- one reason I so quickly read the book when it came out was that Bartok's story has some similarities to my own family's, and I have already bought and sent copies not just to all my other family members but to friends too who grew up with difficult parents. Bartok's account makes clear on every page that the way to healing is not through a sense of grievance [the flaw of so many memoirs!] and its concomitant anger, accusation, or self justification but through our larger capacities to embrace and celebrate the mysteries of our loved ones and ourselves and the way that even great suffering and fear can birth such unexpected beauty. Overall this book most reminded me of Shakespeare's haunting song from The Tempest: "nothing of him that doth fade, but doth suffer a sea-change into something rich and strange." In Bartok's case, this passage applies not just to her mother (for whom this whole book is the most resonant of death knells) but to her own sea nymph life and even more to the creativity and breathtaking beauty of the soul that refuses to be trapped and contained.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2013

    Great read

    This book is a tough one. If you cannot tolerate reading the in depth story of abuse, then move on. I read these not so much for what happened as to how they survived. To get thru to the other side and survive it all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2013

    Interesting read

    Interesting.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2012

    This book beautifully explains what it's like to live with a sev

    This book beautifully explains what it's like to live with a severely mentally ill family member. Each person copes differently in order to survive. I feel less alone after reading it and am thankful to the author for writing it. I've recommended this book to every person that has asked what schizophrenia is really like.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    Good not great

    I feel like it was a good story line just not as well written as it could have been. Still good though

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    "The Memory Palace"

    Boring and slow moving.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Five stars on the book but one star for the author and her sister

    I was deeply saddened by reading the memory palace. How could the author and her sister in good conscience abandon their mother who cried out to them for help. They left their mentally ill mother who loved them deeply to pursue their own lives and careers. To say this is what theirr mother wanted is ludicrous. They return after shunning her for seventeen years only to reunite when the poor soul is dying. I will rate this book as five stars for the literary content only. All i can say to the author and her sister is that it is a good thing neither had children that would abandon them.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 7, 2011

    A nightmare experience imposed on the innocent.

    This is a disturbing story of the wreckage mental illness has on the lives involved. The emotional toll that this family experiences is frightening. There is no help or hope for those exposed and the emotional damages are permanent. A mother and two little girls walk through a nightmare called life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 4, 2011

    Couldn't put it down!

    Anyone who's read The Glass Castle will find The Memory Palace just as compelling.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 223 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)