Excerpt from The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Memory Palace

A Memoir

By Mira Bartok

The Memory Palace
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2011,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2011,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


I pulled the curtains shut over the shades.“Is that better?”

“Yes, honey. You’re a good girl.”

I could smell lunch arriving down the hall—coffee, soup, and bread. Comforting smells in a world of beeping machines and gurneys—the clanking, squeaking sounds of the ICU.

“Are you hungry?” I asked.

“Not that hungry these days,” she said. “You want something to eat? You’re too thin. Go ask them to make you a sandwich. I’ll pay. Bring me my purse.”

My mother was missing all but her four front teeth. I remember her writing me several years before to say that she had had them all removed because disability wouldn’t pay for dental care. According to the Government, teeth and eyes are just accessories, she wrote. Like buying a belt or a brooch.

“Where are your false teeth?” I asked. “They’ll be serving lunch soon.”

“Someone stole them,” she whispered. “They always steal my teeth.”

We sat for a while, holding hands. She drifted in and out of sleep. I put my mother’s palm up to my lips. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t smell cigarettes on her skin. She smelled like baby lotion. She opened her eyes.

“You should be proud of me. I quit smoking,” she said.

“When did you quit?”

“A week ago. When they brought me here.”

“Good for you,” I said. “You know, I always loved you, Mommy.”

It was the first time I had used that word since I was a child. My sister and I always called her Mother, Norma, or Normie, or, on rare occasions, Mom. It was hard to call her anything maternal, even though she tried so hard to be just that. But in the hospital, as she lay dying, Mommy seemed the only right word to use.

“I love you too,” she said. “But you ran away from me. Far away.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“A lot happened,” she said.

“A lot happened to me too. But I’m here now.”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m glad you came. Now let me sleep. I’m so very tired.”


On Tuesday, my second day at the hospital, a nurse came in and asked me how old my mother was. “She just turned eighty in November,” I said.

My mother threw me a nasty look. “It’s a lie!”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Not that old,” she said.

“I was just kidding,” I said.“Are you in your forties now?” I winked at the nurse.

“A little older but not much. A woman should never reveal her age.”

“She’s fifty-two,” I said to the nurse but mouthed the word eighty when my mother turned away.

Later, the surgeon talked to me outside the room. He said that the pathology report had finally come in. What he originally thought was colon cancer was late-stage stomach cancer, which is more deadly and was moving fast. I bombarded him with questions: “Where else has the cancer spread? Is she too far gone for chemo? How long does she have?”

“Well, the good news is that your mother is doing remarkably well!” How can a dying person do remarkably well? I wondered. He added, “She’s recovering great from the surgery but there’s nothing we can really do for her anymore, just keep her comfortable.”

“Can you explain what you did?” I asked.

The doctor borrowed my notepad and drew a picture. His pen flew over the paper; it was a map of what my mother looked like inside.“Here’s what I did,” he said. “I redirected what’s left of her colon and moved this over here, so that her waste can exit through this stoma, see?”

Excerpted from The Memory Palace by Mira Bartók. Copyright © 2011 by Mira Bartók. Excerpted by permission of Free Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Schizophrenia

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  115Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson
  2.  19The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.