From Housewifely Arts: I am my own housewife, my own breadwinner. I make lunches and change lightbulbs. I kiss bruises and kill copperheads from the backyard creek with a steel hoe. I change sheets and the oil in my car. I can make a piecrust and exterminate humpback crickets in the crawl space with a homemade glue board, though not at the same time. I like to compliment myself on these things, because there’s no one else around to do it.

Birds of a Lesser Paradise is a collection of short stories. I didn’t love it, but it was compelling. The stories are narrated by female protagonists, usually in their thirties and forties, who are dealing with issues. In “Yesterday’s Whales”, for example, a woman is conflicted between her devotion to the environment and her wish to have a child. In the title story, a young woman follows a mysterious stranger into the swamp with her father to look for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, which most believe to be extinct.

These stories are the kind that doesn’t really have an ending or conclusion. Though the narrator may realize something about themselves, the story doesn’t tell you what happens in the end. Sometimes that can be annoying, but also quite effective. I thought this one was okay, as the stories weren’t that interesting to me specifically and I couldn’t really relate to the characters. But I can see how women like those in the stories themselves would really enjoy the book. I did like the way that Bergman described the relationship between animals and people, and the cover was nice. I got this one from Scribner, and I’m glad that I gave it a try. I might read more of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s work in the future, if her next collection of short stories tackles a different subject.

Read Birds of a Lesser Paradise:

  • if you like short stories about animals and motherhood

221 pages, 3.5 stars.

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