Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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.
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 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. This extraordinary collection introduces a young writer of remarkable talent.
last time, I knew I was waiting for someone I didn’t understand. Maybe I’d spend the rest of my life waiting, another refugee made into myth by the swamp. Maybe it was for the best; some people and places are better left unchanged. The night before his surgery, Dad went to bed early. I cleaned the kitchen and stared at his closed door. I missed him. Already. I walked down the hall and knocked. Can I come in? I asked. He was propped on his pillows, Betsy sleeping against his feet. She looked
it that way. I headed downstairs. Mom handed me a warm muffin and a thermos. I’m five weeks pregnant, I said, leaning over the kitchen island. She took a deep breath and nodded. She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and pulled me close. For minutes we stood that way, her warmth the most comforting thing I’d felt in days. And Malachi? she said. Is he supportive? No, I said, closing my eyes to keep the tears from spilling out. Are you going to keep it? she asked. I don’t know, I said. I
the gutter, wondering just how bad Al looked without clothes on. Two months ago I had broken my celibacy vows and called Nate. We’d met at Free HBO. There was sand in the sheets. We ripped each other’s clothes off. I slapped his face and bit his shoulder. Afterward, he held onto my hip as we lay silent on the bed, watching a fly on the wood-paneled wall. The fly moved left, left, up, right in logical squares of movement. I hated myself for giving in. Every fly, every gnat, is driven by
she’d been this year. I thought of the night she’d come sprinting back to the trailer in Utah, sobbing, her pant leg soaked in blood, saying: Aida, Aida. I thought of the way the painkillers took something out of her, put a crazy look in her eyes, the way she gripped the backs of chairs and stood with her teeth clenched while the tumors inside of her grew. The rustling stopped. It seemed as if the snow had muted everything around me—the birds, the road, the wind. I saw thin strips of smoke
Christopher Plummer’s Captain von Trapp. How many eggs could a pterodactyl lay at one time? Ike asks. Probably no more than one, I say. One pterodactyl is enough for any mother. How much longer? Ike asks. Four hours, I say. Last night I didn’t sleep. Realizing it was Mom’s birthday, I tried to remember the way her clothes smelled, the freckles on her clavicle, her shoe size, the sound of her voice. When I couldn’t find those things in my memory, I decided to take Ike on a field trip. Four