Review: Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman

WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Life comes with few guarantees except that it will one day end. No one is promised a happy existence, few achieve their goals, most have an ache for something that is never fully realized. Caught up in our expectations of how things ought to be, often we miss out entirely on the beauty of what things are.

In this collection of short stories, Meghan Mayhew Bergman exposes reality as it is: mostly heartbreaking, often painful, always something worth fighting for. Our existence on this earth is knit together with the earth itself, and Birds of Lesser Paradise tells tale after tale of the many ways our fates spiral onward – beautifully – toward an end, or toward a new beginning.

IS IT WORTH THE READ?

The backstep of my childhood home was informally reserved for sitting and thinking. I distinctly remember one afternoon where my thoughts were occupied entirely with a loop of faded green yarn. My tiny fingers were trying to twist and pull the string to mirror the teacup shape my mom’s red thread was formed to in her hands. I was failing miserably, but determined. 

That is what reading Birds of a Lesser Paradise was like for me. I picked this book up at my local bookstore almost three months ago, and I’ve been inching my way through it ever since – allowing my mind to take its time with the turns, the twists, the pulls. While the collection is, in a word, stunning, it is weighed down by the melancholic existence of Bergman’s characters. Mothers who can’t connect, children who aren’t remembered, lovers who grow apart. 

Yet, in the middle of all the pain, Bergman expertly and elegantly weaves threads of hope into each story. She does not condemn a single character to an entirely dreadful life, but gives them just enough hope – just enough beauty – to bear and appreciate their reality. 

Over all, I give this book four out of five. It is entirely likely that, had I been able to read it all in one sitting, the rating would be higher. Bergman’s use of the English language is striking, insightful, and raw. It is that rawness, however, keeping me from absolutely loving this collection. Instead, let’s call Birds of a Lesser Paradise moving. Let’s call it powerful. 

WHAT NEXT?

Should you happen to pick up a copy of Birds you will find an excellent discussion guide in the back. Below you’ll find some suggestions for similar reads:

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Happy Reading!
– Bekah

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