Mira Bartók and her older sister grew up in chaos with a schizophrenic mother; their alcoholic father left early on and stopped sending child support a few years after that. The family was soon on welfare and Bartók’s mother was in and out of the hospital. Bartók’s grandparents were unfortunately not much help either— Bartók paints a picture of an abusive grandfather and weak grandmother in The Memory Palace. Given all this, I knew the subject matter would be heavy going into the book; I was utterly exhausted by the time I finished reading. I suppose that speaks to what Bartók and her sister went through as they grew up and broke away from their mother who essentially stalked them to the point that they changed their names and set up PO Boxes so she wouldn’t know where they lived. But The Memory Palace lacked cohesiveness as Bartók jumped around in the story of her life. There were also a number of tangents (such as being involved with art fraud) that were just unnecessary to a story that should have focused on the central subject. At times Bartók tended toward the political with comments about what the country was doing regarding the care of the mentally ill, but she never pushed it any further or even really said just how those changes affected her family.
Review copy provided by the publisher, FreePress.