Review: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

March 30, 2018
Heart Berries,Terese Marie Mailhot, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Counterpoint Press on February 6, 2018
Format Read: Hardcover Edition (160 pages)
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir/ Own Voices
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Purchased
Heart Berries
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.


Content Warning:
Self Harm, Sexual Abuse, Eating Disorder and Mental Illness


The concise and powerful language used to describe the author's life in this book is amazing. The prose read more like poetry and was full of emotion and honest. Mailhot had a very troubling and abusive childhood that she slowly confronts in adulthood. The book describes her experience being hospitalized for her mental illness and how she navigates her relationships with the people in her life. Mailhot's parents were both caught up in their own trauma's and addictions while raising her. She goes through a journey to learn how to grapple with the anger and love she feels for them both.
"She transcended resilience and actualized what Indians weren't taught to know: We are unmovable."
Mailhot connects her experiences in her Native American community with her approaches to understanding the world around her. She recognizes her erratic behavior as harmful but accepts it as a important part of her being. In this book the author is unapologetic ally herself and I could not stop reading. The descriptions of emotional pain and loneliness resonated with me and will resonate with most readers. The trauma and disturbing events in this book were intimate glimpses into the author's life that helped create a full picture. She identified as an outsider in a society that is hostile to her identity and existence and confronts that.  I'm excited to read more of what Mailhot writes because this was phenomenal.
 "You were a bystander to my joy. You had a black eye, and we covered it with excuses."
 Recommended for Readers Who
-enjoy powerful stories about women
-want to learn more about Native American experiences
-appreciate lyrical, poetic and memorable prose


Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island, BC. She graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA program. Her work has been featured in The Rumpus, Yellow Medicine Review, Carve, The Offing, Feminist Wire, and The Toast. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today.

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