Monday, April 2, 2012

Book 67: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok

I switched from "Week" to "Book" because my life is insane right now. I finished this book nearly three weeks ago and haven't had time to write it up. 

The Memory Palace is a beautifully-written account of a life devoid of order. The author, who suffered a brain injury, is entrusted (by default) with telling her mother's life story while she lay dying. Her mother is a paranoid schizophrenic; so out of control that Mira and her sister Rachel had to change their names in order to live partially normal lives. She finds out that she can't differentiate reality from fiction, and must rely on carbon copies of her mother's letters and an immense collection of journals, all stored at U-Haul. 

Horrors abounded in this book. Imagine having a mother so insane that you had to shove a dresser in front of your door to keep her out. What if you were on a bus (in front of all of the passengers) and she accused you of being raped... then insisted on seeing your underwear? I thought my mom drove me crazy.

For all the tough stuff in this book, it was seasoned with brilliance and beauty. Mira and Rachel's mother was an exceptionally talented pianist before her life took a turn into the horrors of schizophrenia. She appreciated music, history, the study of plants, trees, and dinosaurs. She continued to study and learn even when her mental illness drove her to the streets. 

Beautiful, poignant book. You won't regret reading it. And you might want to hug your mom afterward.

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