Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
HHaving survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing on British Columbia's Seabird Island Indian Reservation—only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar depression II—Terese 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 abusive father, 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." 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.
"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. She writes of motherhood, loss, absence, want, suffering, love, mental illness, betrayal and survival. She does this without blinking but to say she is fearless would be to miss the point. These essays are too intimate, too absorbing, too beautifully written, but never ever too much. What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined, testament." —Roxane Gay
"Heart Berries is a sledgehammer . . . a mixture of vulnerability and rage, sexual yearning and artistic ambition, swagger and self-mockery. . . . 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." —The New York Times
"Part love letter, part poem, [Heart Berries] is a genre-defying marvel of a memoir. . . . A fearless and artistic work, Heart Berries is ultimately a tale of not just surviving, but thriving even in the dark." —Toronto Star
"Unearthing medicine and receiving power requires you to give your life and, in her debut memoir, Mailhot fearlessly delivers. By turns tender, sad, angry and funny, Heart Berries is a thought-provoking, powerful exploration of what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous woman and mother." —Eden Robinson, author of the Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted novel Son of a Trickster
"Powerful and raw, Heart Berries looks unflinchingly at trauma, love, pain, self-acceptance and what it means to be a Native woman today." —Buzzfeed
"The narrative is by turns lucid and hazy, leaving the reader basking in sharp images, moments of tenderness and anger, and a bone-deep sense of pain." —Chatelaine
"Mailhot fearlessly addresses intimately personal issues with a scorching honesty derived from psychological pain and true epiphany. . . . She shares these anecdotes through lyrical, brooding, vastly introspective language. Her prose expresses the urgency of her life in clipped, poetic sentences that snap and surge with grief and intensive reflection. . . . Slim, elegiac and delivered with an economy of meticulous prose, the book calibrates the author's history as an abused child and an adult constantly at war with the demons of mental illness. An elegant, deeply expressive meditation infused with humanity and grace." —Kirkus Reviews
"This book is ache and balm. It is electric honesty and rigorous craft. It concerns a woman who veers into difficult and haunted corners. She meets ghosts and hospitals. She ends up in a mutinous wing of memoir; disobeying all colonial postures, 'neat narratives,' formulas and governments. The resulting story is brave and bewitching. I am so grateful to Terese Marie Mailhot, a fiery new voice, whose words devoured my heart." —Kyo Maclear, bestselling author of Birds Art Life