Title: Heart Berries
Author: Terese Marie Mailhot
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Mental health, Race
Dates read: 29th August – 4th September 2021
5th sentence, 74th page: You were still fucking me, though.
Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Band 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 disorder, Terse 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.
For such a short book, this is incredibly difficult to read through. It took me quite a while. Mostly because the emotions and power of Mailhot’s words were unforgettable. Powerful and filled with such rawness that I frequently had to pause and look at another story.
Mailhot is able to address issues of mental health, abuse and transgenerational trauma in a completely unforgettable way. It is, in places, physically difficult to read about this. But it is also filled with a cautious feeling of optimistic hope.
Under all of the writing and experiences, Mailhot has this overwhelming love for her children. Love for her family. And love, ultimately for herself. There is that cautious optimism throughout, but there is also a great sense of overwhelming love and attachment to those in her life.
This is one of those books that MUST be read. I will probably read this half a dozen times and find something new in it that I just wasn’t expecting. The complexity and power of this writing will most definitely give you new insight with each and every new read.
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