Summary and book reviews of Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Stories

By Megan Mayhew Bergman

Birds of a Lesser Paradise
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Mar 2012,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2012,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

From a prizewinning young writer whose stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and New Stories from the South comes a heartwarming and hugely appealing debut collection that explores the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world.

Megan Mayhew Bergman's twelve stories capture the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collide with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can't be denied. In "Housewifely Arts," a single mother and her son drive hours to track down an African Gray Parrot that can mimic her deceased mother's voice. A population control activist faces the ultimate conflict between her loyalty to the environment and her maternal desire in "Yesterday's Whales." And in the title story, a lonely naturalist allows an attractive stranger to lead her and her aging father on a hunt for an elusive woodpecker. 

As intelligent as they are moving, the stories in Birds of a Lesser Paradise are alive with emotion, wit, and insight into the impressive power that nature has over all of us.

Excerpt
Birds of a Lesser Paradise

I fell for Smith the day my father hit his first hole-in-one on his homemade golf course. Dad had spent years shaping the earth in our backyard until he had two holes that landed somewhere between an extravagant minigolf spread and a Jack Nicklaus par-72.

Mae! my father yelled, hoisting his nine-iron into the air. I did it!

He was a couple hundred yards away, and because I didn't think my voice would carry, I jumped up and down a few times and clapped my hands, trying to appear visibly thrilled. But I was self-conscious with Smith standing behind me, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his army-green cargo pants, an anxious scowl on his almost beautiful face.

Dad sauntered off to pluck the winning ball from the hole, long, white beard trailing in the wind, his spaniel, Betsy, two steps behind. It was hardly fifty degrees out, but Dad was wearing shorts and hiking boots. He was nearing seventy, but he had the bulging calf muscles of a man ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How much of a role does nature play in the lives of the heroines of Mayhew Bergman's stories? How do their relationships with the natural world affect their decisions?


  2. Whether it is an African Gray parrot or a lemur, animals are central to each of these stories. How do the characters identify with or distinguish themselves from animals? Do any of the characters share certain qualities with the animals described?


  3. In "Housewifely Arts," what did her mother's parrot represent to the narrator while her mother was still alive? How did the parrot's importance change after her mother passed away?


  4. How did you react to the veterinarian husband in "The Cow That Milked Herself" examining his pregnant wife in the same way he examines ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

I haven't read a collection this deeply affecting and, for lack of a better word, real, since Alan Heathcock's Volt, and before that, it had been a long time since a short story stunned me into submission with its humanity. Yes, humanity. Bergman's stories are swarming with nature - with oceans, wildlife, biology, the whole mess of planet Earth - but their real strength comes from how they're always able to distill it down, again and again, to us: our own, singular, one-shot human lives, and the people we share them with.   (Reviewed by Morgan Macgregor).

Full Review Members Only (1168 words).

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

The collection's second half doesn't quite measure up to the level of the first, but that's a minor flaw in a book that deserves big praise. The beginning, one suspects, of a fine career.

Booklist

Readers will be shocked, amazed, and always entertained by the work of this accomplished writer of short fiction.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bergman's stellar debut is set among the dense forests and swamps of her native North Carolina and rooted firmly in a crumbling and economically troubled post-crash America. (Pick of the Week)

Library Journal

This is an immensely appealing collection with a rare clarity and cohesion and the capacity to appeal to a wide-ranging audience, including readers who may generally eschew the genre.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
Birds of a Lesser Paradise is an astonishing debut collection, by a writer reminiscent of such greats as Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout and even Chekhov. Expertly delivered, Bergman's stories bloom from the minutiae of life. They confirm the inescapable power that nature - and our own biology - has over us.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Human Population Control

In Bergman's story "Yesterday's Whales," Lauren faces a tough decision when she discovers she's pregnant. Lauren and her boyfriend Malachi are proponents of "voluntary human extermination," and as such have signed a "No Breeding Pledge." Malachi, in fact, is the founder of a non-profit called Enough with Us, a population control organization modeled after the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), a group that proposes to "Phase out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed," so that "Earth's biosphere can return to good health."

When we think about human population control in contemporary times, we usually think of government intervention into human reproduction, like China's one-child policy. But since the 1960s, the human...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Birds of a Lesser Paradise, try these:

  • Flight Behavior jacket

    Flight Behavior

    by Barbara Kingsolver

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

  • Magnificence jacket

    Magnificence

    by Lydia Millet

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence is the story of a woman emerging from the sudden dissolution of her family.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  166The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.