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 being violently attacked for demanding that Norma seek help, Mira Bartok 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 leaves her memories foggy and her ability to make sense of the world around her forever changed.
Hoping to reconnect with her past, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where her mother is living. When she received word that her mother was dying in a hospital, Mira and her sister traveled to their mother's deathbed to reconcile one last time. Norma gave them a key to a storage unit in which she has kept hundreds of diaries, photographs, and mementos from the past that Mira never imagined she would see again. These artifacts triggered a flood of memories and gave Mira access to the past that she believed had been lost forever.
The Memory Palace explores the connections between mother and daughter that cannot be broken no matter how much exists-or is lost-between them. It is an astonishing literary memoir about the complex meaning of love, truth, and the capacity for forgiveness within a family.
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"Most mothers call their adult children occasionally, sometimes with requests for grandchildren. Bart—k's mom, a schizophrenic pianist who ended up homeless, phoned up to 30 times daily, with warnings for her daughter about the dangers of backpacks and pending Nazi attacks. Hillary Huber's melodic voice and crystal-clear diction provide a strong framework for this memoir of a chaotic life. As Bart—k builds her palace of remembrances, Huber's steady and calming tones provide the mortar that binds listeners to the heartbreaking story. Drawing on her brilliant mother's journals and the science of understanding memory, Bart—k recounts agonizing years of fear and difficult decisions. Huber's straightforward narration is punctuated with notes of pain as Bart—k's mother rants. Fascinating portrayals of Bart—k's European friends provide balance and relief. Few listeners will leave this palace dry-eyed. J.J.B. (c) AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine"
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