Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot: an honest memoir

Why should you read this book?

I was beyond excited to read Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot. I had heard nothing but amazing things. It’s also a New York Times Bestseller and it was selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club pick for March/April 2018. I need to start this review by saying that I have been noticing that it’s harder for me to write reviews on memoirs/autobiographies than it is to write about fiction and other non-fiction books. Somehow, I feel that it takes courage to put yourself out there, to reveal your past, your pain, your struggles, your darkest sides. Of course I can still talk about the writing, the structure but I feel limited to a certain extent. I am not just rambling on. It’s just very tough for me to write about this book. Why?

Heart Berries is, like I said, a memoir written in short essays. This book was written after Mailhot was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder. She mainly writes about her experience as a Native American, her dysfunctional childhood, motherhood, mental health and her romantic (and also very unhealthy) relationships.

It goes without saying that reading this book is difficult  because of the topics it explores. Mailhot is honest, human. Reading Heart Berries can be brutal. At least, it was for me. At the beginning, falling in love with her poetic writing, I felt like I should tell and beg everyone to read this book! But, suddenly, that just stopped. It changed. I was amazed and, out of a sudden, I wasn’t anymore. When this happen, you just can’t go back to that initial state. That magic was gone. Mailhot does not narrate her experience in a linear manner. I don’t usually have a problem with this but I think somehow it didn’t work out so well in this book. Hear Berries is also running in circles all the time. I felt like I was reading the same feelings, fears and thoughts over and over again. I was left with this urge to get something more out of this book. Like I said, I applaud the writer for her bravery and she does write about important and sensitive questions. However, her writing/structure distanced me as a reader.

I’d like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing for the free copy. You can buy it here.

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Summary:

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on an Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalised 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.Memory isn’t exact, but melded to imagination. In Heart Berries, Mailhot discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, re-establishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.

Taken from the publisher’s website.

Book Details:
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published on: March 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 144
Price: £12,99

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