Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Memory Palace

Over the course of several weeks, I picked up this book, and put it down again, two or three times before it made it into my library bag.

It looked fascinating, but also disturbing. The Memory Palace is a memoir by Mira Bartok, of her life growing up with an absent father and a schizophrenic mother.

Bartok's honest retelling of her life, her memories, and her emotions brought tears to my eyes. She does not hide her deep pain, her feeling of responsibility toward her mother, her guilt over cutting most ties with her mom and changing her name.

Bartok experiences a traumatic brain injury, after which she finds herself making lists, confused about every day activities - and wonders if this is how her mother feels. As she attempts to piece her life and memories back together, she gets word that her mother is dying.

The account of Bartok and her sister with their mother during the last days is especially touching. They are able to be with her when she dies. Bartok realizes her mother was not as alone as she thought - a host of women from the shelter where her mother lived loved her dearly. Knowing that brings Bartok comfort - although she still wonders if she could have done more to help her mother in life.

Readers feel Bartok's pain and her love for her mother throughout this book, in the midst of her fight to survive the home in which she grew up.

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