The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[26] Birds of a Lesser Paradise

on March 15, 2013


Poppy, better than any of us, understands the urge to have what you must have. She can still wring what she wants from the world. It has listened to her cries and delivered. She still trusts the raw pull of desire. One day it will tear her away from us, take her down a dirt road to a place she does not recognize, and there she will make her home. Away from everything she understands, and close to everything she wants. – “The Two-Thousand Dollar Sock”

You know, for wanting to get off on the right foot reading more short stories in 2013, I really don’t know if I could have picked a better place to start. Not only did Megan Mayhew Bergman put so much effort in to her words (not the bad kind of effort, the good kind – the kind that means she cared, and cared deeply, about each word she chose and where she chose to put it) and in to the themes that ran through her stories, that I really wish I could buy copies to cut up so that I could had out different stories to different people at all sorts of different times. Because there is something within each of us that is within each of these stories. Anyone who has ever had a mother, lost a lover, or been deeply connected to an animal, will find multiple points with which to relate to in Megan’s stories.

Most of my favorite stories have already been talked about here on the blog. The only one that hasn’t is a special story that was included in the paperback release of the collection – a story entitled “Phoenix” – that I loved, but that I was having far too hard a time coming up with the words for! All I can say is that, if you don’t have the collection yet, try and get your hands on the paperback because the extra story makes it SO worth it! That said, I did try and only talk about the stories that I really, really loved, or that for some reason just stuck out to me more than the rest. I wrote about, like, maybe half of the stories in the collection, but that shouldn’t be any kind of reflection on the quality of these stories. For me, there just wasn’t as much to grab on to and hold to my heart – characters that didn’t jump out as much and plots that tended to blend in to the woodwork. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be something there for you – that’s the magic in Megan’s stories.

As for the whole animal thing, I feel it warrants just a bit of discussion. Because, on one level, this is totally a book about animals. Each chapter has an animal (or lack of animal or group of animals) that features prominently in to the plot or some aspect of character development. Once when I was writing my reviews (which, I’ll admit, are usually written ahead) I wrote their order on a Post-It and it read “cow story. wolf story. whale story.” But they’re not just stories about animals, either. They’re about the relationship between humans and animals, and even between the human and the animal within us – never have I been so brutally reminded just how animalistic humans can be than when I was reading my way through this collection.

On the whole, I would have to say that you need to pick this up. I dare you to read this book and not give your puppy or kitty and extra squeeze, to not call your mom just to say hello. It’s far too early in the year to say whether or not this will be one of my top reads, but I can say without a doubt that it’s one of the best short story collections I’ve read in ages, and quite possibly ever. One more shout out to Literary Disco for pointing out such a gem of a collection!

Rating: Hell yeah!


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