Heart Berries is a Breathtaking Memoir

March 31, 2018 Reviews 0

Heart Berries is a Breathtaking MemoirHeart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
Published by Counterpoint Press on February 6th 2018
Pages: 160
Format: ARC

Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
"Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot is an astounding memoir in essays. Here is a wound. Here is need, naked and unapologetic. Here is a mountain woman, towering in words great and small... What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined." ―Roxane Gay, author of Hunger
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.
Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.
"A sledgehammer. . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir." ―Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot’s deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words – but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say... [T]he writing is so good it’s hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance...Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her witness, we are somehow able to see ourselves more clearly and become better witnesses to ourselves." ―Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf

I seem to have a thing for books that hook me from the first page and draw me in.

This memoir is a seamless blend of poetic prose. There are so many lines that just stopped me in my metaphorical tracks and had me rereading them a few times just to breathe them in.

To be honest, I was expecting there to be more discussion of mental illness, but I loved how Mailhot spoke about her illness. It was heart-wrenching and beautiful. Just look at how she describes being observed in the hospital.

Observation isn’t easy, and the right eyes can make me feel like a deer, while the wrong ones make me feel like a monster.

Mailhot speaks so freely and openly about her past, the abusive relationships she survived, the beauty of painting, and loving so freely.

This book was meditation and catharsis. In the end, my favourite line is one I intend to repeat to myself whenever I start to feel down:

I am not too ugly for this world.

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