Memoir Mondays: The Memory Palace

Memoirs have the power to move us, connect with us and allow us to share life changing experiences with people we’d otherwise never have the chance to know. Every Monday, we’re pleased to feature a memoir and open a window to someone else’s life.

The Memory Palace is Mira Bartók’s memoir about how the devastating effects of growing up with a schizophrenic mother changed her and how she managed to forgive her mother. When Mira’s mother was young, she was a piano prodigy with a talent for painting. But when she began to raise her children, her episodes became more frequent and violent. One day, when Mira and her sister tried to tell their mother that she needed help, she physically attacked them. From then on, Mira and her sister changed their names and severed all ties from their mother in fear for their safety. Occasionally, they exchanged letters with the daughters using a P.O box that was not in the city they were living in at the time.

Seventeen years later, Mira is in a car accident and suffers a brain injury. As an adult, Mira had developed the same talents as her mother and became an artist. After the accident, Mira had to relearn everything–how to draw, how to write and how to speak. She also lost many memories. Hoping to rediscover her past, she reunites with her mother, only to learn that her mother, who had been homeless for years, was now in a hospital–dying. As they reconcile, her mother gives her a set of keys to a storage unit where Mira and her sister discover objects from their childhood, flooding Mira with her lost memories.

Filled with beautifully illustrated artwork created by Mira herself, The Memory Palace immortalizes the strength of Mira’s relationship with her mother, withstanding the violence, distance and history that came with it. Read an excerpt from the memoir. The Memory Palace won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography!

Hear more about Mira’s journey writing The Memory Palace: