THE MEMORY PALACE, New York Times Bestseller, Washington Post Best Book of 2011 and 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography.
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“The Memory Palace is almost a fairy tale: two little girls grow up under the spell of their mother’s madness. But it really did happen, once upon a time, and Mira Bartok uses her considerable powers of recollection and compassion to understand her family and to present them to readers as complete, loved human beings. This is an extraordinary book.”–Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Mira Bartok’s harrowing and beautiful tale of growing up with her paranoid schizophrenic mother is in some ways a memoir about memory itself. For Bartok—suffering from a brain injury and raised by someone who had tenuous contact with the external world—the question “what really happened” takes on a particular urgency. She answers it with painstaking honesty, weaving deft parallels between domestic and institutional abuse, individual and national trauma. And as she recalls the shattering experiences of her childhood, literally illuminating them with her haunting mnemonic paintings, something that was never intact is made resonantly whole again.” –Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
“A book of aching beauty and compassion, that circles around the essence of what it is to be alive.”—Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“The story of Mira Bartok’s tormented relationship with her mother initially recalls Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle in its riveting depiction of unconventional families. But in lyrically elegant prose, Bartok’s THE MEMORY PALACE (Free Press) explores not just relationships but the slippery nature of memory itself…a heartbreaking expression of devotion to a mother she loved but had to abandon in order to survive.” –O Magazine
“Bartok juggles a handful of profound themes: how to undertake a creative life…how we remember…how one says goodbye to a loved one in a manner that might redeem in some small way a life and a relationship blighted by psychosis; and, most vividly and harrowingly, how our society and institutions throw mental illness back in the hands of family members, who are frequently helpless to deal with the magnitude of the terrifying problems it generates. On all counts, it’s an engrossing read.” –Elle Magazine
“This moving, compassionately candid memoir by artist and children’s book author Bartok describes a life dominated by her gifted but schizophrenic mother…Bartok turns these strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship.
–Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother...Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking.”
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Poignant, powerful, disturbing, and exceedingly well-written, this is an unforgettable memoir.” –Booklist, starred review
“All you’d need is to see my copy to know—I have Post-It notes marking phrases and sentences I wanted to repeat because they were so good. About one-third of the way through, I thought that if this book were a person, I’d consider making out with it.” —Library Journal Book Smack!, starred review
“Mira Bartok’s Memory Palace is a beautifully crafted tale of life with an absent father and a mentally ill mother. As the story unfolds, you’ll see how fine the line is between gentle artistic creativity and debilitating madness. With each new vignette, Mira reveals the wonder and the horror of life in a house ruled by insanity. As the daughters get older, the mother devolves, making her way from world-class musician to paranoid homeless schizophrenic. Despite that tragedy, Mira’s spirit never fails to shine through. You’ll wish you could pick her up, like a little lost kitten, but in the end, she makes it on her own.” –John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye
“The Memory Palace is a stunning meditation on the tenacity of familial bonds, even in the face of extreme adversity, and an artist's struggle to claim her own creative life. Bartok carries us, room to luminous room, through her memory palace, filling it with stories that link loss to grace, guilt to love, the natural world's great beauty to the creative act, and tragic beginnings to quietly triumphant closings. This extraordinary book, with its beautiful illuminated images, will stay with me.”
–Meredith Hall, author of Without A Map
“Among the plethora of books now available by the children of parents with schizophrenia, The Memory Palace stands out. Elegantly written, the book details what it is like to grow up with a mother with schizophrenia and sensitively assesses the long-term effects her mother’s illness had on both her and her sister. Strongly recommended.” –E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., author of The Insanity Offense