A couple of months ago a news story about a murdered homeless woman in Salt Lake City caught my eye. The story of the woman, how she had fallen from a successful career, lost her family and eventually became homeless, broke my heart. Can we begin to understand the lives of the people who live in the shelters, parks and on the street corners?
Mira Bartok tells the story of her own mother's descent into homelessness in the newly released memoir The Memory Palace. After her own brain injury caused by a car accident, Mira uses art to build her own "memory palace" and the memories surrounding her life with her mother who suffered from schizophrenia. The series of memories depict the life of a brilliant and artistic but mentally disturbed woman who raised two daughters.
The memories are haunting and painful but also show the ties of familial relationships and love. Even though Mira eventually changes her name and maintains a P.O. Box in a city where she never lived to hide from her violent and needy mother, Mira continues to love her mother and write her letters. Eventually, she will return to her dying mother's bedside. The bond between mother and daughter is so strong that the two women lived somewhat parallel lives during their years apart--the mother studying Hebrew even though she did not know her daughter lived in Israel. Mira's words are constantly laced with love and a deep empathy for her suffering mother.
While with many successful people you can easily point to their good parents as the cause, there are so many who rise in spite of their childhoods. Mira Bartok does this. While her mother instilled in her a great love for art and words (which Mira will use throughout her career), Mira rises to success in spite of the years of neglect and fear.
The Memory Palace is enthralling and beautiful even during the tales of darkness and pain. Bartok spent her career with art and words and puts it together to write this thoughtful and inspiring story of heartbreak and triumph.
I received a free copy of The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok from FreePress. The review is my honest opinion and no additional compensation was received.