The Memory Palace

Mira Bartók, Free Press, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8331-1
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.)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
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FORMATS
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-3025-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-4526-5025-8
Compact Disc - 978-1-4526-0025-3
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4391-8333-5
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61587-951-9
Paperback - 305 pages - 978-1-4391-8332-8
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