- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (January 11, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1439183317
- ISBN-13: 978-1439183311
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Memory Palace Hardcover – January 11, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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 œthe 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.)
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*Starred Review* Bartók’s mother, Norma Herr, was a pianist who suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for much of her life. When Bartók was a child, her unpredictable mother tried to jump out of a second-floor window. After enduring years of painful uncertainty, Bartók and her sister made the difficult decision to cut off all ties to their mother, with only a post office address as a tenuous connection. They changed their names, too, and had unpublished telephone numbers and addresses. Only after Bartók suffered a debilitating brain injury in an automobile accident and discovered her mother’s stored artifacts were she and her mother able to re-connect. After the accident, Bartók covered her computer with Post-it notes of “things I can’t remember anymore,” yet memories of her childhood fill these pages as images come flooding back and she tries valiantly to make sense of them within a contemporary context that bridges the past and the present. By the time mother and daughter meet again, some 17 years later in 2006, her mother is dying from cancer. Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir of loss and recovery, love and forgiveness. --June Sawyers
Top Customer Reviews
Although we had family counseling, and the children were most successful in their academic careers, many of their fears and sufferings were never shared and continue to this day to affect their adult memory of their individual childhood experiences.
Last week, their mother told me for the first time in thirty years, what a fine father I had been to them and how sorry she was that she had caused us such trials. It was as if the clouds parted and the sun shone brilliantly through. Certainly, Ms. Bartok's memoire retold a similar revelation. There is hope and her own life and guilty feelings are not the conclusion. It is so helpful for those of us dealing with loved ones suffering from mental illness to hear Mira's story.
This is the second volume of anguish to come my way out of Cleveland, my home town, this year. The first was a marvel, from Jill Bialosky, History of a suicide: my sister's unfinished life.
That one came with the wallop of an atomic bomb. But it didn't prepare me for the hydrogen bomb follow-up (atomic bombs are merely the trigger for the 24x more powerful H-bomb) that came my way by an innocuous-seeming mention in the high school class newsletter of The Memory Palace by one Myra Bartok. What an innocent title, but the subject beckoned: a schizophrenic mother. Another author from my high school, I'll give it a look.
I started reading, and stopped breathing: Myra Bartok (a name she chose for herself taken from the famous Hungarian composer) and/or her writing is : Unrelenting, menacing, powerful, astonishing, raw, heartbreaking. Bialosky had stood me up with the left hand, and Bartok finished the fight with a right cross. Out cold.
Bialosky hailed from Shaker Heights, the tony east side suburb that proletarian west siders like us may never even see after a lifetime in Cleveland (though I left town at 17). Turns out Ms. Bartok grew up a mere four blocks from my house. I knew every reference to the local schools, and landmarks, first-hand, back-of-my-hand.
I finished the book, but still I wonder: how she could even function, let alone write a NY Times bestseller after her abusive childhood, abusive from every quarter, grandfather, grandmother, classmates, but especially her schizophrenic mother. It simply astonishes.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Deep reading which disturbs somewhat by its frolic and art. Tough subject. A woman struggles to come to terms with the mother she abandoned - the mother's words repeat throughout... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a memoir of a woman's struggle with her mother's mental illness and how it affected her and her family. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Nancy A
Mental illness fascinates me. I'm not sure if it's because I am interested in the human mind or if it's because it shows me that, compared to a person with a mental illness, I am... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Julee Rudolf
I loved the way this book was written, she keeps you wanting more.Published 5 months ago by Joyce C. Murphy
Very astounding portrayal schizophrenia and the accompanying guilt and helplessness that families deal with. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Kindle Customer
Mira Bartok’s memoir is a story of her relationship with her schizophrenic mother, Norma. In her prologue, Bartok sets the stakes: she gives the hypothetical situation of a... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Raymond M. Wong