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 by Megan Mayhew Bergman X
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Morgan Macgregor
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 Review

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 (1185 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

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!

Beyond the Book

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...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

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

More books by Megan Mayhew Bergman

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

  • Look Alive Out There jacket

    Look Alive Out There

    by Sloane Crosley

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A brand-new collection of essays filled with hilarity, wit, and charm. The characteristic heart and punch-packing observations are back, but with a newfound coat of maturity. A thin coat. More of a blazer, really.

  • Eveningland jacket

    Eveningland

    by Michael Knight

    Published 2018

    About this book

    These stories, told with economy and precision, infused with humor and pathos, excavate brilliantly the latent desires and motivations that drive life forward.

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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...
  • Book Jacket: Lanny
    Lanny
    by Max Porter
    At once beautifully poignant and hauntingly grotesque, Max Porter's Lanny is like an unexpected ...
  • Book Jacket
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket: The Last Collection
    The Last Collection
    by Jeanne Mackin
    What it's about:
    The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin follows the lives of two internationally ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.