Monday, 9 April 2018

Heart Berries

Author: Therese Marie Mailhot
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Canadian
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Doubleday Canada

First Published: March 13, 2018

First Line: "My story was maltreated".

Book Description from GoodReadsGuileless and refreshingly honest, Terese Mailhot's debut memoir chronicles her struggle to balance the beauty of her Native heritage with the often desperate and chaotic reality of life on the reservation.

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia. 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 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.

My Rating: 2.5 stars

My Review: In this small book, Mailhot, a Canadian Indigenous woman, bravely shares her personal feelings and experiences which are often brutal, bleak and sometimes shocking.

She tells her story with a unique writing style that was like nothing I've ever read. Some phrases were deliciously poetic - the kind that readers will want to write down. Brief, powerful and wonderful. But these tidbits are interspersed within a story that felt disjointed and almost incoherent much of the time. The writing, which was less of a memoir and more of a collection of essays, was like a rambling and unedited stream of consciousness that switched subjects, location and time lines leaving me feeling like I wasn't quite keeping up with her. It just wasn't a style that I enjoyed reading.

I wanted to love this book so much more than I did. I tried, I really did, and I realize that I'm in the minority with my review. While I applaud Mailhot for bravely sharing her deeply personal experiences and thoughts as an Indigenous woman who struggles with mental illness, her identity and loss, her frantic, disjointed method of relaying her thoughts greatly diminished my understanding of her story and my overall enjoyment of this book.

Disclaimer: This Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. 

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