Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

The Memory Palace
Title The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Publisher: Free Press
Published: August 9, 2011
ISBN: 9781439183328
Pages: 336                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Memory Palace is Mira Bartok's haunting memoir of the profound affect her mother's schizophrenia had on her life.  The title refers to a mnemonic device of creating a palace and populating it with facts and events one wishes to remember.  Ms. Bartok uses this method to reinforce her memory after sustaining a head injury that lead to cognitive deficits in her memory, language processing, and other executive functions of the brain.  In the book, she lays the foundation for her palace and builds several rooms using her mother's diaries to supplement information about her mother.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As she sifts through memories, she begins to understand her mother's plight - frustrated by the limits of society in a time of rigid standards of proper behavior and struggling with her disease in a time of relatively primitive methods of treating the mentally ill.  Her mother muses in her diaries of what could have been if she didn't have schizophrenia.                                                                                                                             How best to manage a parent with severe mental illness who due to the very nature of her disease is unable to seek assistance herself  After surviving her childhood and her mother's increasingly paranoid and aggressive schizophrenia, Mira thinks by moving to another city she can simply rid herself of her mother.  When plans to get guardianship of their mother fails, both she and her sister resort to changing their names.  Mira keeps a special Post Office box to keep in contact with her mother.  Finally the sisters can find some peace of mind after years of impromptu visits and  police visits due to their mother's paranoia.  For a long time Mira struggles with her choice to essentially abandon her mother but feels its the only way to maintain her artistic life and her own sanity.  Vacillating between avoidance of her mother and worry over her mother's state, Mira eventually realizes that there is only so much she can do.    Sharing her mother's last days and interacting with the women from the shelter, reaffirm to her that her mother despite the schizophrenia was loving, kind, and still capable of bringing light into others lives.                                                                                                                                    A memoir of schizophrenia, this book could have become a jumbled mess but Ms. Bartok's writing is fluid enough to keep one from getting overwhelmed.   She weaves a tale using fragments of her memory and excerpts from her mother's diaries finding several parallels between her urge to be an artist and her mother's abbreviated artistic life.  This book is beautifully illustrated to match the theme of every chapter.  All in all the book is a difficult read but well worth it. *This book was provided by the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.*

No comments:

Post a Comment