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The Memory Palace

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The Memory Palace is a breathtaking literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness among family.

"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.

Then one day, Mira’s life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life--she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.

Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma’s life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

The Memory Palace is a breathtaking literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness among family. Through stunning prose and original art created by the author in tandem with the text, The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists--or is lost--between them.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 11, 2011

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About the author

Mira Bartok

25 books215 followers
Mira Bartok is the author and illustrator of The Wonderling (2017), a middle grade fantasy series published by Candlewick Press and soon to be feature film. Her 2011 New York Times bestselling memoir, The Memory Palace, won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, literary journals, and anthologies, and her books have been translated into many languages across the globe.. She is also the author of over 32 books for children. You can listen to Mira interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/1327433...

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