The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace

A Memoir

Book - 2011
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When piano prodigy Norma Herr was healthy, she was the most vibrant personality in the room. But as her schizophrenic episodes became more frequent and more dangerous, she withdrew into a world that neither of her daughters could make any sense of. After Norma attacked her, Mira BartÓk and her sister changed their names and cut off all contact in order to keep themselves safe. For the next seventeen years Mira’s only contact with her mother was through infrequent letters exchanged through post office boxes, often not even in the same city where she was living. At the age of forty, Mira suffered a debilitating head injury that left her memories foggy and her ability to make sense of the world around her forever changed. Hoping to reconnect with her past, Mira learned Norma was dying in a hospital, and she and her sister traveled to their mother’s deathbed to reconcile one last time. Through stunning prose and gorgeous original art, The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists—or is lost—between them.
Publisher: [S.l.] : Free Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781439183328
Branch Call Number: 921 BAR
Characteristics: 336 p. ; 22 cm


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Oct 09, 2019

Honestly - this hits close to home. I am from same demographic and time period with a family member, who was also caught in the dysfunction of how we deal with mental illness. I marvel that Myra Kerr - who changed her name to Mira Bartok - was able to endure. The women's shelter in Cleveland, Ohio, is named for her mother, Norma Herr, who spent the last months of her life there. Health and Human Services in Cleveland, Ohio - are a disaster.

IndyPL_SteveB Aug 03, 2019

A beautifully written and compelling memoir of growing up with a schizophrenic mother. It’s one of the best memoirs I have ever read.

Myra and Rachel had a terrifying childhood. Their grandfather was mentally ill, sadistic and abusive. Their father was a promising novelist who destroyed himself through alcoholism. Their mother Norma had been a beautiful teenage piano prodigy who began showing her schizophrenia at the age of 19. By the time the girls were 12 and 11, Norma was walking around waving knives, subjecting them to public humiliation, talking about the Nazis and aliens hiding under the bed, conversing with invisible people, and occasionally threatening the girls’ lives. As the girls managed to go to college and start careers, their mother would show up to harass their employers, friends, and boyfriends, often pounding on doors in the middle of the night. The girls changed their names and stayed separated from their mother for 17 years, until Mira (Myra’s new name) discovers that her mother is homeless and dying of cancer.

The writing is deeply emotional, leading the reader through the terror and frustration, to the years of guilt, and finally the beginnings of understanding, as Mira begins to see why she managed to love her mother in spite of everything. It is a harrowing account at some points but if you persevere, you will gain a deeper compassion for and understanding of the mentally ill. You will also begin to appreciate the strength it took for the author to examine her life and come to terms with her mother.

Aug 13, 2016

I find this book to be profoundly honest without being overwrought; I appreciate the author's approach to understanding her mother, and I feel like I learned another shade of empathy.

Sep 23, 2013

Exquisite. Beautifully rendered. I bought it because I know it's one I'll re-read over and over.

Jan 23, 2013

It was interesting but not riveting. I had trouble getting through it and had to take a couple of breaks and read something else. Finally got through it.

mhaidy Jul 03, 2012

I had a hard time getting through this book and in fact put it down while I read another. When the author is writing about her mother it is very interesting however she ventures off into other areas of her own life that are not very interesting.

If you have ever dealt closely with someone who suffers from a mental illness then you can relate. This is the area of the book that is interesting.

Jun 20, 2012

Anyone with loved ones who suffer from mental illness will identify with this story.

With insight, discovery and irony, the author shares her experience of living with (and away) from her schizophrenic mom from the time of her childhood to present day.

Beautifully written and hard to put down.

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