Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

Title: The Memory Palace
Author: Mira Bartok
Publisher: Free Press
Publish Date: July 5, 2011
Source: Free Press Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like vivid memoirs.
  • You liked memoirs that cover tough topics like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
  • You're interested in mental illnesses like schizophrenia.
What's The Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "'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."

My Two Cents:

This book is hard to read but it's a very good memoir and an interesting one especially in the light of some questions that have recently come up in the news about what to do when a loved one refuses treatment for a mental illness (such as in the case of the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords). Mira's mother refuses to have her schizophrenia treated and it really affects and harms the lives of Mira and her sister.

Mira Bartok weaves a heart wrenching family saga on her mother's decline into illness. You really feel bad for Mira and her sister throughout the book. They are torn between loving their mother and trying to preserve their own lives. At one point, Mira and her sister even change their names so that they can keep their distance from their mother. I can't imagine how difficult that situation must have been. On one hand, it's sad that they felt they had to totally abandon their mother but on the other hand, there is not much that can be done if a person refuses treatment for a mental illness even if their mental standing is questionable at best. It begs the question as to whether or not one should ever have the ability to ask for a person to be treated if they could potentially do harm to themselves or others? That's definitely a difficult subject with so many sticking points.

Bottom line: This book gave me a lot of subjects to ponder. It's heartbreaking to watch a loved one go through something so difficult. This book is a great read and truly shows the struggle of doing what's best for yourself and for your loved ones.

My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars


  1. I just received this book in the mail yesterday. I am not sure if I want to read it because it does sound heartbreaking. Thanks for your review.

  2. Great review! I've been wanting to read this one for awhile, now I need to double-check and make sure it's on my TBR list :)


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