Non-Fiction Review- I Am I Am I Am & Heart Berries

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

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Goodreads SummaryWe are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death.

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O’Farrell’s astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter–for whom this book was written–from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life’s myriad dangers.

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O’Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

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The Writing

I connected with Maggie O’Farrell’s writing style. This is the first novel of hers that I have read and I have since added all of her fiction books too my TBR. Her writing is simple and straight forward yet impactful. I appreciate a memoir that feels like I am reading a work of fiction, and that is certain what I got with I Am I Am I Am!

Reflective and Thoughtful

I was not expecting this book to be so insightful! She writes about all seventeen of her near death experiences, some of which were more serious than others, and goes on to share the wisdom and lessons that she gained by living through each one. For a book about near death experiences, it was surprisingly uplifting at times!

The Ending

The last chapter of this memoir is brilliant! I had tears in my eyes while I was reading it and I just enjoyed how she brought the story full circle. The entire memoir is wonderful, but it is worth reading for the last chapter alone!

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The Order

The way that this book is structured left me a little confused. It is not set in chronological order so it was difficult to keep track of how old she was at which time. I understand why she went with the order that she did but it definitely took some getting used to!

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“We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.”

“I can go for days without thinking about it; at other times it feels like a defining moment. It means nothing. It means everything.”

“That the things in life which don’t go to plan are usually more important, more formative, in the long run, than the things that do”

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Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

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Goodreads SummaryHeart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman’s coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation 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.

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Honest and Raw

I have never read a memoir that was more unapologetic and honest. Terese Mailhot truly lays it all out on the table. She shares the good, the bad, and the ugly. The whole time I was reading Heart Berries I could not help thinking “Wow this woman is extremely brave.”

Unique Writing Style

Terese Mailhout writes in a way that I find to be completely original. I do not think I can adequately explain her metaphorical writing style. It added to the experience and you could see her voice shining through.

Insightful

Something I love about memoirs is that they give you a peak in to someone else’s life. Terese Mailhot gives you more than a peak, she bares it all. I am completely inspired by her.

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Takes Awhile to Get Used To

While I grew to love her writing style, it definitely took some time to get used to and I am not sure that everyone will connect with it. It is extremely metaphorical so there were times when I really had to sit and think about what she was trying to say. I just think the reader should be aware that this is not an easy read but it is well worth the effort!

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“You said you would be on the other a side of the door. That’s how perfect love is at first. Solutions are simple and problems are laid out simply.”

“I think self-esteem is a white invention to further separate one person from another. It asks people to assess their values and implies people have worth. It seems like identity capitalism.”

“Nothing is too ugly for this world, I think. It’s just that people pretend not to see.”

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Have you read either of these memoirs? I would love to know what you thought!

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of both of these books in exchange for an honest review.

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12 thoughts on “Non-Fiction Review- I Am I Am I Am & Heart Berries

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