Anne's Reviews > The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
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's review
Oct 13, 2012

really liked it
Read in September, 2012

The Memory Palace has been sitting on my nightstand for months. I expected it to be an intense memoir of a daughter struggling with her mother's sometimes violent schizophrenia. And it was intense, but it also was a deeply moving story of survival that I am glad I read.

Despite her mental illness, Bartok's mother is surprisingly witty and curious and intelligent. Before she became ill, she was a piano prodigy and was described as lighting up s room. That her core personality somehow remains intact over years of homelessness and hospitalizations is another story of survival.

Her story is an example of the tragedy of society's abandonment of care for the mentally ill beginning with budget cuts during the Reagan presidency, and is a warning to us in today's world of cutbacks in social services. I think this book helps one to look at the homeless and mentally ill with more compassion and an awareness of how thin the line can be between a "normal" life and living on the streets.

I particularly appreciated the mother's diary entries and letters which expressed chaotic thoughts that verged on profound, dark humor as when she wrote, "Everyone is guaranteed the right to be deprived of the pursuit of happiness.". Every letter expressed longing to be with her daughter, and the author writes of her guilt about severing contact after a violent incident and about her mother's homelessness, it is an honest account, but heartbreaking.

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