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Birds of a lesser paradise : stories
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Adult Fiction BERGMAN

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From Publishers' Weekly:

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. These 12 short stories, all but two of which were published in journals like One Story, Ploughshares, and Narrative (and anthologized in the Best American and New Stories from the South series), may be tethered to familiar Southern gothic tropes, but Bergman deftly sidesteps cliche and sentimentality, using honest autobiographical moments to make her work unique (like Yannick Murphy (The Call), Bergman's husband is a veterinarian, a character that appears in several stories). Reflections on the natural world, animals both domestic and wild, family, and death figure prominently as motifs. In the title story, a young woman who lives with her father in backwoods North Carolina confronts her loneliness and her father's mortality when an attractive stranger engages them to help find a woodpecker believed to be extinct. While Bergman's tone is melancholic, a sense of possibility and rebirth figures prominently. "Six times he'd eaten a sock. Five times it had come out the other side, worse for wear, composted," says the narrator of "The Two-Thousand-Dollar Sock," a struggling new mother whose dog survives the sock only to take on a bear desperate for a taste of honey. Bergman writes straightforward, elegant prose that dovetails nicely with swampy Americana, and possesses a great facility for off-kilter observations. A woman in "Housewifely Arts" learns the details of her mother's mourning for her dead husband from a parrot, and worries after her own child: "The things my body has done to him, I think. Cancer genes, hay fever, high blood pressure, perhaps a fear of math-these are my gifts." Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

With this debut story collection, Bergman establishes herself as a writer with a clear, striking narrative voice and a distinctive view of the world and its animal inhabitants, including our human selves. The story "Housewifely Arts" features a parrot sought by the daughter of its deceased owner as a way to remember the timbre of her mother's voice. Another story involves a woman who works in an animal shelter and refuses to give up any of the animals she keeps at home-three golden retrievers with assorted missing parts and other infirmities, one declawed raccoon, a one-eyed chinchilla, a cormorant, and several feral cats-for the sake of a long-term relationship with a rather nice man who also hunts geese with a bow and arrow. The deals we make with the world around us and with the assorted others who inhabit it, and the solace we find in our fellow creatures, are the larger concerns of these memorable stories. VERDICT 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.-Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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