This spare, poetic memoir has stuck with me more than any other book I read this year. Mailhot unflinchingly bares her history of loss, betrayal, and survival in beautifully written essays that compel you to keep reading, and to read again. Recommended By Piers R., Powells.com
Heart Berries is a slender jewel of a memoir written in an original and unexpected new voice, filled with unusual and delightful ways to play with language. It doesn't feel written so much as physically extracted from her body — twisted, honest, and wholly beautiful. Recommended By Leah C., Powells.com
Terese Mailhot delivers one of the most poetic and heartbreaking memoirs I have read this year. Her prose and form take the typical memoir and turn it on its head. Unsurprisingly, she was one of Sherman Alexie's students, and shows the same inventiveness of style. Heart Berries is a beautiful and painful ode to struggles as a Native woman. I treasured Mailhot's words and ability to openly share her unique yet universal struggles as an indigenous person. Recommended By Kate L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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, 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, re-establishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.
“Mailhot’s first book defies containment and categorization. In titled essays, it is a poetic memoir told in otherworldly sentences...Not shy, nor raw, nor typical in any way, this is a powerfully crafted and vulnerable account of living and writing about it.” Booklist
“Mailhot fearlessly addresses intimately personal issues with a scorching honesty derived from psychological pain and true epiphany...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
“Heart Berries is an epic take — an Iliad for the indigenous. It is the story of one First Nation woman and her geographic, emotional, and theological search for meaning in a colonial world. It is disturbing and hilarious. It contains sentences of such poetry and power that you will be compelled to set the book down and walk away to recover from the tremors. Terese is a world-changing talent and I recommend this book with 100% of my soul.” Sherman Alexie, author of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
“Inside Terese Mailhot’s phenomenal memoir Heart Berries the truth wrestles a knot between hustle and heart. How does a woman raised on a reservation in Canada forge a lifestory in the face of a culture hell bent on keeping her quiet and calm? By and through her body, is how, and this woman’s body rages, desires, screams and whispers its way into the reader’s body, as if to remind us that the rest of the story will not be silenced. Terese radically reinvents language in order to surface what has been murdered by American culture: the body of a woman, the voice of a warrior, the stories of ancestral spirit jutting up and through the present tense. I am mesmerized by her lyricism because it is shot through with funny angry beautiful brutal truths. This is a writer for our times who simultaneously blows up time. Thank oceans.” Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan, The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and The Chronology of Water
“Heart Berries by Terese Marie 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, author of Hunger
About the Author
Terese Marie Mailhot graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts with an MFA. in fiction. Mailhot’s work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Los Angeles Times, Carve Magazine, The Offing, The Toast, Yellow Medicine Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of several fellowships — SWAIA Discovery Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Fellowship, Writing by Writers Fellowship, and the Elk Writer’s Workshop Fellowship — she was recently named the Tecumseh Postdoctoral Fellow at Purdue University and resides in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Terese Mailhot on PowellsBooks.Blog
Heart Berries: A Memoir
is the book I wrote from pain. For most of my life, I tried to tell the truth of my experiences and make people see
me. My story was maltreated, every time. As a child, I told my mother the way she spoke to me hurt. She always thought it was an unfair indictment. She’d counter by telling me the reasons why she wasn’t who I needed her to be...