Showing posts with label mira bartok. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mira bartok. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok


Title: The Memory Palace
Author: Mira Bartok
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads:

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.


My Review:

Phew, what a memoir.  The Memory Palace is, at various points, sad, frightening, hopeful, and frustrating.  But mostly sad.  I was sad for the lack of support that Mira and her sister Natalia received over the years, both from their other family members and from social services.  I was sad for their mother, who Mira and Natalia loved deeply, but because she was unable to receive adequate help, they were forced to abandon her for their own well-being.  And most broadly, I was sad that Mira and Natalia had to live their entire lives under this shadow--because even when they separated themselves completely from their mother, they were still left with horrible memories and a suspicion of others' good will.

This memoir speaks strongly about the lack of social supports for the mentally ill in America.  Mira and Natalia tried countless times to get social services involved with their mother, or to appoint her a legal guardian who could take over her financial affairs--and in the end, the vast majority of their attempts failed, resulting in their mother's homelessness and declining physical health.  Also, I couldn't believe that Mira and Natalia were never taken from their mother's custody as children.  Mira does say that they never wanted that, but from an outsider perspective, it was heart-wrenching to see the fear they lived in throughout their childhoods because of their mother's illness.  It makes you wonder how many other families in this country face these obstacles with mentally ill spouses, children, siblings, etc. each day.

Well, I've made it fairly obvious that this memoir leaves a big emotional impact.  But I also have to comment on the writing style a bit.  I'll admit that, in the beginning, I almost DNF'd this one.  The first part of the book, when Mira is recounting her early childhood, took a long time to catch my interest.  I think because her memories of this time were so fuzzy (being early in life), she writes about them with a lot of symbolic references to artwork, music, etc and after a while, those references just became too abstract and flowy for me.  I wanted to know about her life...I didn't need all of the artistic imagery in its place.

However, as Mira moves into her adolescence and adulthood, she leaves a lot of these fluid images behind, and starts telling her story in a more concrete way.  (She does still rely on a lot of artistic images for embellishment--she is an artist, after all--but when paired with the more solid facts of her life, they take on  more relevance, in my opinion.)  By the time she was recounting her teenage years, I was enveloped in the memoir and found myself captivated by her life story.  In spite of the difficult time she has with her mother, Mira has led a truly amazing life, and the journey she goes on around the world is not one you'll soon forget.

Looking for a light read?  I think you need to find another book on my blog, perhaps.  The Memory Palace is sure to weigh heavily on your mind for a while after reading, but the message it sends about the treatment of the mentally ill makes it well worth your time.

Readers: read any other powerful memoirs lately?  Especially in regards to mental illness?

Monday, November 4, 2013

'Sup, Monday? What are you reading?

Aloha, reader friends!  It's Monday...so what are you reading?

Well, lately I have been reading a lot of this:

Yes, one of my most dreaded tasks of parenting is going down today...potty training.  Now that we're settled and I'm home with Small Fry full time, I figured we would try to give it a go FO' REALSIES.  We've been using this book to get him SUPER PSYCHED for using the potty, and this morning we're starting our "all undies, all the time" strategy.

Please pray for me.  It's really not fair that I am unable to imbibe alcohol during this trying time.

However, when I'm not reading awesome picture books about pee, I am reading this:


Buying In by Laura Hemphill, for an upcoming TLC book tour.  Goodreads description:

Bright, ambitious Sophie Landgraf has landed a job as a Wall Street analyst. The small-town girl finally has her ticket to the American elite, but she doesn’t real­ize the toll it will take—on her boyfriend, on her family, and on her. It isn’t long before Sophie is floundering in this male-dominated world, and things are about to get worse.
 
With the financial crisis looming, Sophie be­comes embroiled in a multibillion-dollar merger that could make or break her career. The problem? Three men at the top of their game, each with very different reasons for advancing the merger. Now Sophie doesn’t know whom to trust—or how far she’ll go to get ahead.
 
Set inside the high-stakes world of finance, Manhattan’s after-hours clubs, and factories in the Midwest and India, this is the high-powered, heartfelt story of a young woman finding her foot­ing on Wall Street as it crumbles beneath her. Written by an industry veteran, Buying In tackles what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, and how to survive in big business without sacri­ficing who you are.

I know nada about banking and finance, but that isn't keeping me from enjoying this book.  I'm still in the early stages with it, but so far I really like Sophie's character, and the author explains the financial stuff in a way that makes me feel not stupid (hooray!).

What will I read next?
SO HARD TO CHOOSE!  With the end of the year looming, I have a lot of things to consider, given that I want to finish a couple more of my challenges.  Perhaps The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, or Dante's Inferno.  Hmmmm...

What's on your reading agenda this week, friends?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Monday, readers!

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!  What are you reading today?
My weekend was a bit hectic, but a good one.  As a final (free!) birthday gift, my dear husband took Small Fry for Saturday morning and I spent it at the library...alone...reading and lurking through the shelves.  (Since we just moved here, I am well within my rights to do a fair amount of lurking as I get to know my new library.)  It was awesome!  I rarely get more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading at a time these days, so having 3 whole hours was a real treat.

Otherwise, it's been lots more unpacking, sorting, and trips to Home Depot as we settle into the house.  But it's nice to be done with moving trucks and just be busy putting everything in its place now.

(On a related note, can someone please tell my husband that there is no such thing as having "too many books"?!?!?!?)  :-P

Sooooo, what am I reading today?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Yes, this is one of my 30 before 35 books...there's nothing like a little challenge to get me motivated to read something that's been on my TBR for ages!  I have been dying to read this ever since I finished Flynn's Gone Girl, and (about halfway through) I am not feeling disappointed.  It's a completely different subject than Gone Girl, but still with the dark and unsettling notes that I remember from that novel.  I probably won't wait long to jump into Flynn's other novel, Dark Places.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I was very very excited to FINALLY see this download to my Kindle at midnight on the 24th!  I started King's latest over the weekend, and even though I'm not too far in yet, I am already super happy with how it picks up from The Shining.  I expected a bigger time lapse between the end of The Shining and the beginning of Doctor Sleep, but Danny is actually still just a boy as the story commences.
I am taking part in the #SleepAlong (a Doctor Sleep read-along), hosted by Charlene at Cheap Thrills and Tif at Tif Talks Books.  It starts TODAY and goes through October 21.  If you want in, check out either of their blogs ASAP!

What will I read next?
I am excited to have an ARC of Wally Lamb's We Are Water up for review at the end of October, and I will probably get it started pretty soon.  Other possibles are The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

What's in your reading plans this week, friends?
 
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