I’m review this book even though I haven’t finished it because the publisher requested reviews be posted today. I will post a complete review when I finish the book.
Summary: “ 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. — from Goodreads
Thus far this has been a story that has made me think. What a remarkable being we humans are, to be able to take what can only at times be called horror and not only survive but thrive. What Mira and her sister go through is shocking and heart-wrenching and both manage to live a fruitful life.
As I mentioned I have not completed this, in fact I’m a little less than half way through but I will say this. I’m really glad I’m reading this. I’m not always a fan of books where children (especially young children) become responsible for their parent(s) but there is something about this story and the way it is written that just fascinates me.
The women in this story are very well educated so interspersed with this tale of a difficult childhood and mental illness are interesting facts on such subjects as music-the mother was a child prodigy-, geology, the history and uses of plants and flowers, how the brain works in relation to memories. Mira was involved in a catastrophic car accident, suffering a severe brain injury, and losses some short term memory.
I can’t give to much detail but will say I can’t imagine anything making me dislike this book. It is very well written and I genuinely care about all the people involved. I know there are harrowing incidents ahead with the mother but Bartók has already made us sympathetic to the woman and the mental illness that causes these events.
I look forward to giving my full review as soon as I finish this book and I really look forward to finishing it.
I received this book from the publisher, Free Press.