Don’t be fooled by the title. Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, published under the romantic, rather forgettable name Heart Berries, is a sledgehammer … Phantoms speak throughout Mailhot’s book — they speak through her. She began working on it when she had herself committed after a breakdown. She wrote her way out of the chaos of her past … Heart Berries has a mixture of vulnerability and rage, sexual yearning and artistic ambition, swagger and self-mockery that recalls Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick … So much of what Mailhot is moving toward here still feels nascent — the book wants a tighter weave, more focus. But give me narrative power and ambition over tidiness any day.
Although this slim and devastatingly calibrated memoir which features brief, impressionistic and carefully modulated essays tops out at 160 pages, Heart Berries truly does provoke the reader to reconsider what it means to be epic … In blunt yet lyrical prose, she depicts struggles and stories — of herself, her mother, her father and her grandmother — that are at once singular and sovereign, yet also representative and collective, portraying the travails and quotidian heroism required to be ‘a woman wielding narrative now’ … Even as her book resists the oversimplified arc of pain and suffering followed by redemption and happiness, the bittersweet progress that Mailhot makes by the end feels hard-won, precarious but hopeful.
This stunning, poetic memoir from Terese Marie Mailhot burns like hot coal. I read it in a single feverish session, completely absorbed and transported by Mailhot’s powerful and original voice … The strength of her writing comes from Mailhot’s fearless embrace of emotional darkness and in her depiction of the psychic cost of living in a white man’s world … Situating her physical and psychic pain in context with a multigenerational focus, Mailhot crafts an intensely moving story about mothers and what they pass down to their children.