by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Pub. Date: March 6, 2012
Book received from: Publisher
In this collection of short stories, Bergman weaves together a series of intimate stories, each with their own focus of effects and influence of nature in our daily lives. The stories explore birth, death, and the living that comes in between. In what amounts to a solid and intricately woven collection, each story easily stands alone. Bergman achieves what is difficult to do with a short story: the ability to full articulate each history, while allowing room for the possibility of the characters to grow into a full story of their own.
While all the stories were interesting and equal in rhythm, there were two that really stood out to me. The first was “Yesterday’s Whales,” in which the main character is a proponent of population control, and discovers she is pregnant. She is forced to explore her entire belief system, and figure out how the new knowledge can fit within her current framework- or if she can even live the same life anymore. The other standout was “Saving Face,” with a character whose face has been scarred and learns what it means to be treated differently because of something that is out of her control. She must learn to rethink her idea of beauty, learn to love herself, and learn to let others in again. However, the price of being scarred on the inside is far greater than the scars on the outside.
Throughout the collection, Bergman explores the relationship between humans and nature, the concept of nature versus nurture, and how the idea of human nature relates to it all. The idea of the cycle of life, and how we deal with birth and death are prominent throughout as well. Birds of a Lesser Paradise achieves what many short stories collections struggle with: each of the stories are intrinsically and intimately connected, yet they tell a story that is all their own. Each voice is clear and distinct, yet together they collaborate into a common voice of questioning everything and not taking anything for granted.
The question remains as to whether Bergman intends to continue as a short-story author, or if perhaps one of the characters within the pages of Birds will find a larger voice in a full-length novel of her own. Either way, there is sure to be an audience for the quietly powerful new author.
This book can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.
For more about Megan Meyhew Bergman, go to her website here.