The Memory Palace

Mira Bartok, Author
Mira Bartók, Free Press, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8331-1
Paperback - 305 pages - 978-1-4391-8332-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-8333-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-4526-5025-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-0025-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-3025-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61587-951-9
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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 “the 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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