"Heart Berries" by Terese Marie Mailhot; Counterpoint Press (142 pages, $23)
In an age when memoirs are all the rage (for better or worse), this one stands out. Terese Marie Mailhot, who grew up on a First Nations reservation in British Columbia and now teaches at Purdue University in Indiana, has had a life no one would envy. Sexually and emotionally abused as a child and impoverished, anorexic, bipolar and obsessively lovesick as an adult, she has been through one hell after another, including her troubled parents' deaths, the loss in court of one child she couldn't properly care for and hospitalization for her mental illness.
She is often cruel to others, and to herself. "It's too ugly to speak this story," she writes in her strange way. "It sounds like a beggar. How could misfortune follow me so well, and why did I choose it every time?"
Somehow, she has found the words - most unusual ones - to tell her story, and because she uses words in such strange ways, the result is spooky and powerful. Although many critics have described this book with stuttering superlatives, readers will differ on whether it's poetic or incoherent, brilliant self-examination or wordy narcissism.
Whatever the conclusion, it's a roller coaster of a read, and perhaps one especially valuable for those who have struggled with mental illness and/or obsessive love.
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