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The Memory Palace Paperback – Aug 9 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (Aug. 9 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439183325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439183328
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #120,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A Washington Post Best Book of 2011

The National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Best Autobiography of 2011

About the Author

Mira Bartók is a Chicago-born artist and the author of twenty-eight books for children. Her writing has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies and has been noted in The Best American Essays series. She lives in Western Massachusetts, where she runs Mira’s List, a blog that helps artists find funding and residencies all over the world. The Memory Palace is Mira’s first book for adults. You can find her at

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Janet B TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 1 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Memory Palace is a Memoir which opens with a homeless woman sitting on a window ledge contemplating jumping. An ambulance with its red lights flashing is waiting below. The woman believes that the red lights are the eyes of a leopard.

It is a story which takes place in Cleveland, of an absent father and a mentally ill mother.

Norma Herr was once a healthy, beautiful and brilliant piano protege. She was a single mother with two daughters, Mira and Natalie. She loved them dearly and did her best to raise them. As time goes by, her mental state begins to deteriorate. She begins to think less of Chopin and more about the Nazis. Norma fears that the Nazis will kidnap, rape and murder her daughters. She is a paranoid schizophrenic. As psychotic episodes become more frequent, she withdraws into a world of her own that Mira and her sister cannot understand. She can become violent and on one occasion, she attacks Mira with a broken bottle and cuts her throat. Mira and her sister fear for their lives and are forced to leave their mother and their home. They both change their names in order to keep safe. For the next seventeen years, the sisters do not see their mother. However, Mira was in contact infrequently by letters through different Post Office boxes. Mira pursued a career as an artist and traveled to Italy, Israel etc. Her thoughts of her sick mother were always there.

At age forty, Mira's life changes drastically. She was in a debilitating car accident and suffers a Traumatic Head Injury which affects her memory. She has to relearn how to read, paint and interact with the outside world. Hoping to reconnect with her past, she reaches out to the homeless shelter where her mother was staying and learns that her mother is dying in a hospital.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Louise Jolly TOP 100 REVIEWER on Feb. 28 2011
Format: Hardcover
Mira and her sister Natalia, grow up under the veil of their mother's madness. Norma was a schizophrenic often given to crazy outbursts, physical attacks on the girls, strings of verbal vulgarity, and generally making a nuisance of herself. Norma showed up at their workplaces, wrote them crazy letters, purchased a gun, cut Mira's throat with a broken bottle and made life hell for these two girls.

Finally, both girls were forced to move away and not tell Norma where they were, it was the only way they could live their lives in peace. Years later, after learning that Norma is dying, Mira and Natalia come home and must sift through the feelings they each held against their mother.

This was a riveting, spellbinding, and deeply entrancing read. Mira Bartok's The Memory Palace is a lesson for us all in the sadness and extremely difficult lives people live when a family member is struck with a mental illness. Throughout the book I found some humour but I also found a lot of misery and melancholy. This is a book everyone should read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By McCathryn on Dec 29 2011
Format: Paperback
Tlhis book is sad, poignant and very well written.the despair of the three individuals is palpable and portrays a system and a society which turns its face away from mental illness. The protagonist daughter does what she can to save her self from the violence and manipulation of a woman(her Mother) who is destroyed by schizophrenia . She is brilliant but is a victim to the devastating disease. It nearly destroys the daughters. The daughters are damaged but do manage a final rapprochement with their fated Mother.
Bartok is powerful and articulate writer.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazing autobiography. I can understand why she won awards for writing this book. Mira and her sister went through unforgettable situations with their mother. The story begins at the beginning of the war, at a time when medical doctors did not yet understand what schizophrenia was. The story tells how they dealt with it, what happens to the mother, and many page-turning episodes that one must read. I highly recommend this book.
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By Granny sparkle on Oct. 28 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
She's a wonderful writer. I was blown away by her lyricism and insight. I will look for her books again.
Warning. This book may make you sad and depressed. Don't read it if you are feeling low.
The story is true and very sensitive and loving about a girl growing up with a schizophrenic Mother.
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