Bartok, Mira. The Memory Palace
Free Press (Simon & Schuster) 2011 305p 25.00
978-1-4391-8331-1 hs/adult E-BN
Bartok, artist and children’s author, has written a memoir about having an
increasingly mentally ill mother and the effects of this on her life. This well-written narrative is disturbing, well-written, and heart wrenching. Bartok, an artist and children’s author who has published 28 books, has now written a memoir about having an increasingly mentally ill mother. She offers vignettes of what it was like for her and her sister living with a musically gifted mother who descends into madness. Her mother’s diagnosis, paranoid schizophrenia, played out in nightmarish ways. As they got older and went to college, things got worse. The mother would threaten them and appear at their jobs and cause outrageous scenes, so they finally severed all contact with her for many years.
When Bartok had a serious car accident that caused a brain injury; she had to
relearn certain skills and wanted to reconnect with her former life. So, she
contacted the homeless shelter that she thought her mother was in and she found
that her mother was dying. Then, Bartok and her sister returned home and
reconciled with her mother. While they were there in the hospital, Bartok
discovered a key that opened a storage unit that her mother had kept for years
and discovered a plethora of family memorabilia that created new meanings to her past life.
This narrative is compassionate, disturbing, well-written and heart wrenching. This title is recommended for Tristate Books of Note for its
sensitive portrayal of debilitating madness, its affects on a family, the power
of love, and the need for a better mental health system. This book would be most appropriate for mature readers at the high school level. Weinraub, Tina