#24- The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok

” People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you’ve been through,” Mira Bartok 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 protege 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. – Publishers Website

I really enjoyed this memoir.  From the beginnings of the family already in chaos to the re-emergence of their Mother as she is dying, it was a poignant reminder that even though they all have been through so much, the ties that bind a family together that once were thought to be broken forever, they still bind no matter the circumstances.  The girls finally let their guards down to be able to understand their Mother as if they never have before.  Poignant, heart-breaking, debilitating, this memoir maybe will have you re examining your own relationships with family or friends, or possibly maybe your own life.

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Reading Group Guide


3 thoughts on “#24- The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention #24- The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok « Serendipitous Readings -- Topsy.com

  2. Thank you so much for reviewing my book and saying such kind things! I really appreciate it. The blog tour for this book has been a great help in getting the word out. I only have one little thing to request, though. Would you mind removing the word ‘novel’ since it misrepresents the book (it’s a memoir) and in this climate of James Frey people who try to sell fiction posed as memoir, the book should be represented as it really is, which is a true-life memoir. My editors recently got very upset at a newspaper journalist who wrote novel instead of memoir and I know the use of the word in this review will upset them as well.

    All that aside–I am so grateful for your review and also for posting the video! Thanks so much and thanks for taking care of that tiny mistake.

    Best wishes,

    Mira Bartok

    • I totally understand Mira, and it has been corrected. I so know about that particular incident, enough said.

      It was a lovely book, and you seem like a lovely person as well.

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