Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where do you keep your memories?

The Forum Network is one of the dozens of podcasts I download from iTunes each week. Each episode features an author reading or discussing his or her work, and often taking questions from the audience. A recent episode on Mira Bartok caught my ear, as the author was describing University Circle in a reading from her memoir "The Memory Place".

I have not read the book, but here is the Forum Network's description:
"People have abandoned their loved ones for much less than you've been through," Mira Bartok is told at her mother's memorial service. It is a poignant observation about the relationship between Mira, her sister, and their mentally ill mother. Before she was struck with schizophrenia at the age of nineteen, beautiful piano protege Norma Herr had been the most vibrant personality in the room. She loved her daughters and did her best to raise them well, but as her mental state deteriorated, Norma spoke less about Chopin and more about Nazis and her fear that her daughters would be kidnapped, murdered, or raped.
When the girls left for college, the harassment escalated--Norma called them obsessively, appeared at their apartments or jobs, threatened to kill herself if they did not return home. After a traumatic encounter, Mira and her sister were left with no choice but to change their names and sever all contact with Norma in order to stay safe. But while Mira pursued her career as an artist--exploring the ancient romance of Florence, the eerie mysticism of northern Norway, and the raw desert of Israel--the haunting memories of her mother were never far away.
Then one day, Mira's life changed forever after a debilitating car accident. As she struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury, she was confronted with a need to recontextualize her life--she had to relearn how to paint, read, and interact with the outside world. In her search for a way back to her lost self, Mira reached out to the homeless shelter where she believed her mother was living and discovered that Norma was dying.
Mira and her sister traveled to Cleveland, where they shared an extraordinary reconciliation with their mother that none of them had thought possible. At the hospital, Mira discovered a set of keys that opened a storage unit Norma had been keeping for seventeen years. Filled with family photos, childhood toys, and ephemera from Norma's life, the storage unit brought back a flood of previous memories that Mira had thought were lost to her forever.

Isn't that fascinating? I might have given her book a chance just because I'm interested in anything Cleveland, but her story sounds so incredible that I need to read this. It almost seems like something you would find in the fiction section -- a sad story with an ending that makes you smile.

Bartok mentions during the recording that she'll be in Cleveland "next month." I was hoping she meant March, but after checking her events page, I see that I listed to the podcast too late to get to hear her speak in person.

Listen to Bartok read on the Forum Network on iTunes, where you can also scroll through recent episodes and subscribe to the podcast.

If you'd rather watch than listen to Bartok's Forum Network appearance, head over to the page on her appearance, or click the play button below:
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Brief interview with Bartok from Simon & Schuster:

-- Cheryl Sadler | CSadler@News-Herald.com | @nhcheryl

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