View Gallery

Editions

The Memory Room

A Novel

List Price: $16.00

August 31, 2004 | Paperback |  5.5 x 8.25, 520 Pages | ISBN 9781593760182
Order Now From Indiebound

"With subtlety, restraint and an extraordinary eye for detail, Rakow has constructed a breathtaking debut that avoids the cliches of abuse narratives as it tests the boundaries of prose and poetry." —Publishers Weekly

The novel opens with Barbara, who, after remembering incidents of torture at the hands of her father, has quite literally broken down. Found inside a disabled elevator, she is no longer able to function with her new consciousness of these memories—those which are so resistant to understanding. Confronted with this knowledge of evil, she must begin the painful process of remembering and reconstructing a new whole self.

Helping Barbara to navigate her grief and her memories are her therapist, the Psalms, and most of all, the words of Paul Celan. Paul Celan: 1920-1970, Poet. An eastern European Holocaust survivor who wrote haunting poems about the darker spiritual trials of life and relationships that exhibit a compact style that fuses broken words and chopped syntax to produce a stark musicality.

This is a novel about a woman who goes to hell and back. It’s a story which affirms the resilience of the human spirit and the healing power of love and faith.

About Mary Rakow

MARY RAKOW, winner of a 2003 Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship for fiction, has a Masters degree from Harvard University Divinity School and a PhD in Theology from Boston College. A native Californian, she currently lives in Los Angeles. The Memory Room is her first novel.

Praise

“With subtlety, restraint and an extraordinary eye for detail, Rakow has constructed a breathtaking debut that avoids the cliches of abuse narratives as it tests the boundaries of prose and poetry… Drawing from the Psalms and the poems of Paul Celan, Rakow has written a novel that distills the mysteries of suffering, faith and salvation into a complex yet accessible whole. The horror of her tale is ultimately redressed by the sensitivity and skill with which it is told… Readers who enjoyed Alexander Chee’s well-received Edinburgh will be impressed by Rakow’s handling of abuse, and fans of Anne Carson will be drawn to Rakow’s style, a hybrid of poetry and prose.” —Publishers Weekly

“Rakow’s suspenseful style and economy of scene communicate much more profoundly than verbose works. In fact, she seems to leave nothing out: behavior that is at first incomprehensible is eventually rendered transparent, as Barbara’s painful reawakening convincingly takes forever in every sense except the reading.” —Library Journal

“In her suspenseful, poetic, mysterious and profound novel The Memory Room, Mary Rakow addresses the big question—how do we live with our knowledge of evil? And then what do we do with this knowledge, and how can we reconcile it with an equally profound awareness of the depth of the world’s beauty and the possibility of faith? Approaching these fundamental issues not as a philosopher but as an artist using a subtle poet’s touch, she explores the great paradoxes of the human condition without simplification or denial. The Memory Room marks the rarest of occurrences—the debut of a literary master.” —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

“Haunting and profound, The Memory Room refracts personal history and puts it back together as powerful art….Mary Rakow has written a darling, brilliant book.” —Howard Norman, author of The Museum Guard

Related Products