Review of Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

January 2, 2013
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Birds of a Lesser ParadiseBirds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
By Megan Mayhew Bergman; Read by Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
ISBN: 9781442357921
[UNABRIDGED] – 7 hours, 28 minutes
Publication Date: November 2012

Themes: / birds / animals / relationships / parents / cancer / literary /

Publisher Summary:
An “astonishing debut collection, by a writer reminiscent of such greats as Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, and even Chekhov” (Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants), focusing on women navigating relationships with humans, animals, and the natural world. Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.

This book came out in print in March 2012, and the audiobook was new in November.

The title is apropos – while the stories aren’t about birds exactly, most of them do seem to include animals in some way – many birds, but also ferrets, dogs, sheep, cats, even a chinchilla.

The author is at her strongest when she writes about relationships, particularly when they have failed because of issues the people can’t control – death, disease, savior complex, you name it. The most powerful story to me was the first one – Housewifely Arts – that tells the story of a woman and her young son, driving to visit her deceased mother’s bird, just to hear her voice one more time. Wow. I will remember it for a long time. It also takes place in a city that I know well on the coast of South Carolina, which also brought it to life.

Yesterday’s Whales demonstrates what happens when your life deters from your Values, while Every Vein a Tooth demonstrates what can happen when you stick to them. Both are heartbreaking and memorable. The Right Company, with the weird salve of the obese food writer, is one story with unique, super southern characters.

The Artificial Heart was probably my least favorite story, because the vision it attempts of a post-fish dystopic Florida was not quite as successful as the painful realities of the other stories.

Most of the stories are set in the south, which is where Bergman grew up, with one set in Vermont where she lives now. The stories are read by Cassandra Campbell, who does a great job with subtle changes in accents, vocal tone, and pacing. (I’ve heard her before, as one of the readers for the Cloud Atlas audiobook.)

Posted by Jenny Colvin

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