“In a time of memoirs that help a reader understand vulnerability and the experience of facing down fear, Terese Marie Mailhot's cathartic, moving Heart Berries is one of the bravest and most fearless of such books. Her coming-of-age on a First Nation reservation, Seabird Island in Canada, is particular to that vividly evoked place, but also carries larger, universal lessons for the human spirit and its survival. A necessary book.”
— Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
“Heart Berries achieves that most elusive and sacred goal of literature: to make us feel less alone in the world. With a beautiful and original voice, Mailhot applies the precision of a poet to her prose. Each sentence feels necessary, each paragraph vital, as she grapples with daughterhood, motherhood, sisterhood, wifehood, and, finally, selfhood. This is a book written against forgetting, against losing one’s self to the needs and desires of others. But this isn’t self-help; this is carefully crafted literature, the disciplined work of a masterful artist.”
— Tina Ontiveros, Klindt's Booksellers, The Dalles, OR
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The PBS Newshour/New York Times Book Club January 2020 selectionSelected by Emma Watson for her "Our Shared Shelf" Book Club"
"A sledgehammer. . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir." --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
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 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.
"I am quietly reveling in the profundity of Mailhot's deliberate transgression in Heart Berries and its perfect results. I love her suspicion of words. I have always been terrified and in awe of the power of words - but Mailhot does not let them silence her in Heart Berries. She finds the purest way to say what she needs to say... T]he writing is so good it's hard not to temporarily be distracted from the content or narrative by its brilliance... Perhaps, because this author so generously allows us to be her witness, we are somehow able to see ourselves more clearly and become better witnesses to ourselves." --Emma Watson, Official March/April selection for Our Shared Shelf