REVIEWED: Heart Berries

Berries

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (Memoir, 2018).

Already a New York Times Bestseller, this powerful if slender volume is a memoir, though told in highly poetic and richly evocative prose. Ms. Mailhot is a Canadian-born member of the Salish People now living in the United States. She holds a M.F.A. in fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts, has been published in numerous literary magazines and had received many fellowships with assorted literary organizations. She’s also a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, PTSD and Bipolar II Disorder.

The eleven chapters of this book deal with coming to terms with her late parents, one  a social worker and activist drawn to prisoners and the other an abusive alcoholic with great artistic talents; her own relationship struggles; shame, self-destructive impulses and self-doubt. Rather than a chronological account, each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of her struggles to build a worthwhile life and come to terms with being imperfect and somehow loving others without whitewashing their failings and imperfections.

The book also includes a thoughtful and probing introduction by noted author Sherman Alexie (who served a mentor to Mailhot) and an afterword, that is actually a telling and insightful mini-interview of the author by Joan Naviyuk Kane.

All in all, a moving and stirring book–at once a story of surviving abuse and mental illness, being a Native American/minority person in the dominant culture, and more besides.

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