A gorgeous memoir about the seventeen-year estrangement of the author and her homeless schizophrenic mother, and their reunion.
When piano prodigy Norma Herr was healthy, she was the most vibrant personality in the room. But as her schizophrenic episodes became more frequent and more dangerous, she withdrew into a world that neither of her daughters could make any sense of. After being violently attacked for demanding that Norma seek help, Mira Bartok and her sister changed their names and cut off all contact in order to keep themselves safe. For the next seventeen years, Mira's only contact with her mother was through infrequent letters exchanged through post office boxes, often not even in the same city where she was living.
At the age of forty, Mira suffered a debilitating head injury that leaves her memories foggy and her ability to make sense of the world around her forever changed.
Hoping to reconnect with her past, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where her mother is living. When she received word that her mother was dying in a hospital, Mira and her sister traveled to their mother's deathbed to reconcile one last time. Norma gave them a key to a storage unit in which she has kept hundreds of diaries, photographs, and mementos from the past that Mira never imagined she would see again. These artifacts triggered a flood of memories and gave Mira access to the past that she believed had been lost forever.
The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists—or is lost—between them. It is an astonishing literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness within a family.
"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
"It...deserve[s] to be mentioned in the same breath as The Glass Castle and The Liars' Club, and readers of those memoirs will find The Memory Palace richly rewarding.---BookPage
"As Bartók builds her palace of remembrances, Huber's steady and calming tones provide the mortar that binds listeners to the heartbreaking story.... Few listeners will leave this palace dry-eyed." ---AudioFile
"Bartok...insert[s] her own illustrations and photographs into the text to create a heartbreaking expression of devotion to a mother she loved but had to abandon in order to survive." ---O Magazine
"Chilling in its horrible intimacies, this is an amazing rendering of an artist's life surrounded by, and surviving, mental illness." ---Library Journal Starred Review
"Bartók turns...strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir of loss and recovery, love and forgiveness." ---Booklist Starred Review
"A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother.... Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking." ---Kirkus Starred Review
"Beautifully written, touchingly told, The Memory Palace lingers, radiating with pain and fear, love and freedom." ---Janine Latus, author of If I Am Missing or Dead
"The Memory Palace is a creative act that required pure courage and the transformative powers of an artist." ---The Los Angeles Times
Best BookNew York Times
National Book Critics Circle Award WinnerKirkus