The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace

[a Memoir]

Book - 2011
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In the tradition of The Glass Castle , two sisters confront schizophrenia in this poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and family's capacity for forgiveness

"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, a debilitating car accident changes Mira's life forever. Struggling 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.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, c2011.
ISBN: 9781439183311
Branch Call Number: 362. 2082092 BAR B
Characteristics: xiii, 305 p. : ill., ports.


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Aug 13, 2016

I find this book to be profoundly honest without being overwrought; I appreciate the author's approach to understanding her mother, and I feel like I learned another shade of empathy.

Sep 23, 2013

Exquisite. Beautifully rendered. I bought it because I know it's one I'll re-read over and over.

Jan 23, 2013

It was interesting but not riveting. I had trouble getting through it and had to take a couple of breaks and read something else. Finally got through it.

mhaidy Jul 03, 2012

I had a hard time getting through this book and in fact put it down while I read another. When the author is writing about her mother it is very interesting however she ventures off into other areas of her own life that are not very interesting.

If you have ever dealt closely with someone who suffers from a mental illness then you can relate. This is the area of the book that is interesting.

Jun 20, 2012

Anyone with loved ones who suffer from mental illness will identify with this story.

With insight, discovery and irony, the author shares her experience of living with (and away) from her schizophrenic mom from the time of her childhood to present day.

Beautifully written and hard to put down.

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