Pages: 143 pages
Published: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Genre: Nonfiction, Biographies & Memoirs
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.
Memoirs can always be a hit and miss but when done properly, the memoir can be a true insight into the author’s mind and thoughts. After reading the blurb for Heart Berries, I thought I would be reading a perceptive and sharp-witted novel. However, after reading this, I was left me frustrated and displeased at how this memoir turned out.
This book had ample opportunities to be insightful and thought-provoking but it just continuously became dead in the water. The writing style was different compared to other memoirs I have read. I am always intrigued at the different styles out there but I believe that this disjointed storytelling is what hurt the objective of this story. Because of this, it was just so frustrating to read. All the thoughts and ideas were there but there just no story structure. The ideas were just all over the place. As a reader, I sympathize with her story and I could feel the pain and heart ache that went along with it, but readers will start to lose that connection, especially if they have no idea what is going on.
She is an amazing writer and her poetic prose cane you leave you breathless. Mailhot intelligence truly shows through her terrific ideas and insight. However if this book had better structure, this could have been one amazing memoir.
Overall rating: 1 out of 5 stars