Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Memory Palace

Title:  The Memory Palace
Author:  Mira Bartok
Publication Information:  Free Press, Simon and Schuster. 2011. 305 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on a Facebook post between friends.

Favorite Quote:   "When you die, there are always two dates, the one you were born on and the date you left this earth. The important dates are the ones in between. Whatever you do in this'll be remembered for something."

The Memory Palace is a memoir which tells of Mira Bartok's life growing up and living with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia . The book begins at the end as Mira rediscovers her mother who is nearing the end of her life. It then proceeds to describe the process of their life in snapshots as rooms in Mira's "memory palace."

The memory palace is a tool that associates our memories with a concrete place and object. Your palace has rooms, and each room has a significant object which triggers memories and emotions. Mira uses this tool as she struggles to rediscover her mother and also her own memories as she recovers from a head injury.

This book is a difficult read because of the strong emotions it elicits. The book makes you cringe at the extremely difficult situation Mira and her sister live with. Yet the book also talks about her overriding love for her mother, her lifelong desire to be able to help her mother, and the heartbreaking decisions she made to survive the situation.

Despite the strong emotions in the book or really maybe because of them, it is a also hard book to put down. I wanted to protect Mira and her sister. I wanted to help their mother. I wanted to question the people around them to see what more could have been done. I imagined what I would have done. I wasn't ready to be done when the book ended because I want to know what happened after.

This is a story told from the heart and meant to be read from the heart.


  1. I was glad to read your review because I wanted to see the reaction of someone who was truly moved by this book. I wanted to be that reader, but somehow it fell somewhat flat for me. I wondered if the brain injury may have blunted Bartok's story-telling powers, or if I was simply expecting too much. I know that Amy Tan's writing changed after her Lyme's disease. With The Memory Palace it seemed almost as if I were reading an encyclopedia entry. Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, I enjoyed your review, which I read originally on FaceBook.

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed the review. I always love hearing different perspectives on a book. It makes for interesting discussions. I did have a strong emotional response to this book. Sometimes I find that when I have read too much about a book before I get to the book, it fails to live up to expectations. Sometimes, my reaction is just based on where I am in my life at that moment. What books have elicited a response from you and moved you?