Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories” as Want to Read:
Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  2,423 Ratings  ·  369 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Scribner
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Birds of a Lesser Paradise, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Larry H
Dec 17, 2012 Larry H rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 stars if I could...darn you, whole numbers!

Megan Mayhew Bergman's short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, is a definite find. Sometimes moving, sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, these stories depict women's interactions with nature in its many forms—biological, zoological, and psychological—and how sometimes you just don't understand its influence.

There are a number of terrific stories in this collection, but among my favorites were "Housewifely Arts," which to
Pat Pujolas
Jan 10, 2012 Pat Pujolas rated it it was amazing
If you could read only one book this year, my vote would be for this one. (As an aside, I'm not sure why that would ever be the case; what's wrong with you, only reading one book? But let's not digress.) From cover to cover, not a page goes by where the reader won't find instances of wonder, awe, and grace. This is fiction at its finest, and yes, I'll say it: paradise.
Jun 28, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I don't know what to say about this book that won't end up sounding overly personal, other than I loved it and thought it was a great collection of stories, really well done. I know lots of people like writing super-subjective reviews, but I'm not one of them.

But. There are a number of themes running through these stories that shot me right through the heart: Being a mother. Having a mother. Slowly losing a parent to dementia. Loving animals slightly irrationally. The tug of wanting to rescue th
James Renner
Mar 09, 2012 James Renner rated it really liked it
Confession: This book falls outside my comfort zone. It does not have monsters or time travel or time traveling monsters. There were a couple reasons I picked it up. 1. Megan and I have the same agent (the tenacious Julie Barer). And 2. That goddamn cover. Geez that’s a great cover. So I read the first short story (this is a collection) with not a little trepidation. But it was the last line of that story (Housewifely Arts, which was included in The Best American Short Stories) that forever made ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I got a review copy of this audiobook from the publisher. I wasn't sure what to expect; I was new to the author (this is her first book, although she has previously published short stories) and had no expectations. The book came out in print in March 2012, but the audiobook was new in November.

The title is apropos - while the stories aren't about birds exactly, most of them do seem to include animals in some way - many birds, but also ferrets, dogs, sheep, cats, even a chinchilla.

The author is
Years back, I had a discussion with a friend where I argued that writing a good short story is not necessarily less difficult than writing a novel just because it's shorter (granted, I've never written a novel, so I admit that I'm full of shit in some extent here). You need to create a powerful story and characters in just a few pages, whereas more pages mean more time to do set-up, more time to build the readers' connection with your story and your characters.

Part of the reason I made this argu
Jessi Phelps
May 02, 2012 Jessi Phelps rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to love these stories. However, while reading them it became apparent to me that they probably would have sat with me much better had they not been bundled together in a book, reading one right after another. The characters and narrations are all too similar--mostly middle-aged, middle-class women with mom problems. I don't mean to simplify the stories so bluntly, but this feeling was exactly what I was left with after reading the book.

Her crisp, clean, perfect writing st
After some thought, it was ok is the best I can say about this collection of stories. I've read Bergman's later collection, Almost Famous Women, and liked it very much. The common factor there were women on the fringes of fame, the might-have-beens. I liked the diversity of the stories.

The common factor in Birds is animals and the women who care for them. I like animals as much as the next person and the idea had me intrigued. I even like most of the stories, individually. But they're so simila
May 20, 2014 Elizabeth☮ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-reads
I have had this book on my radar for quite some time, but pushed it up on the list when it was mentioned on the Literary Disco podcast.

This is an excellent collection of short stories that makes the connection between individuals and nature. Each story contains some aspect of nature whether it is an animal or going out into the forest.

I think what appeals to me in this collection is that there is an honesty that comes through with each character. The voice of each character is strong and compl
Heather Frechette
Aug 27, 2012 Heather Frechette rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure and was a joy to read. I moved through it slowly, wanting to savor each story and the characters. Three weeks after having finished it, as I re-read some of the stories for this review, the smiles and tears returned as fresh as the first reading.

I think what Ms. Bergman grasps and illustrates so accurately is the human capacity to feel joy, pain, despair, guilt, pleasure, fear, and love, all within a millisecond of each other. This complexity of "human-ness" is difficult
Apr 26, 2012 A. rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
In some ways Bergman does everything right in these stories. They are well crafted with interesting characters and their plots move along with a good amount of tension. However, reading them one after another I began to sense the craft too much -- the subplots surfacing just at the right time, the backstory slowly unfolding, the hard earned direct statements. By the end, I longed for a rambling, poorly plotted that would just break the mold and challenge me.

I think I would have liked these stori
Robert Blumenthal
Jun 06, 2015 Robert Blumenthal rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful set of short stories, all of which deal with women and some form of relationship with animals. The prose is direct, yet packs an emotional wallop for the most part. The initial story, about a single mother who travels with her young son to visit her dead mother's parrot so that she can hear her mother's voice again (the parrot consistently imitated her) is worth the price of admission all by itself. She feels compelled to do this even though she and her mother did not get alo ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Callie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, 2013
I can't put into words how much I absolutely loved this collection. Each story was lovely, haunting, and heartfelt. The stories were also the perfect length-long enough that you cared about the outcome, but short enough that no word felt wasted. I found myself fighting back tears as I repeatedly tortured myself by reading this in public. And it wasn't even necessarily the events within the stories that moved me (though they often did), but just the beauty of the language.

Let me put it this way-
Mar 01, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing
I'm usually not a big fan of short stories because I always feel like something is missing...not so with this wonderful collection! Tremendous gems, her writing is amazing. One of my favorite books so far this year.
Jaime Boler
Feb 01, 2012 Jaime Boler rated it it was amazing
Going Wild

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman (Scribner; 240 pages; $24).

In Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Megan Mayhew Bergman explores how we are shaped by nature and how, in turn, nature shapes us. Sometimes our relationship with nature is beautiful, but sometimes it can turn brutal. Bergman's short story debut collection, which consists of twelve stories, is deeply moving and intensely thought-provoking.

Many of Bergman's stories concentrate on the theme of motherhood. Bergman t
I admit that my initial attraction to “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” By Megan Mayhew Bergman was due to the cover. Having an obsession with owls, my radar zoned in on the book at Barnes & Noble… and I am glad it did.

On the surface, Bergman’s “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” is a collection of twelve short stories (about 30 pages each) which gather around the common theme of animals. However, on a deeper level, the more important common themes of self-discovery, love/fear, and the all-too-common e
Apr 27, 2012 Jess rated it liked it
There’s this thing that happens to me when I read certain books where that book strikes right at the heart of something I’ve been feeling or hadn’t realized I’ve been feeling. And to most people that’d seem like a good thing. The book has made me feel something! I’ve connected with it on a personal, intimate level! That’s what every author wants, I think. But sometimes it’s not what I want. Especially when the feeling the book taps into is this weird funk of melancholy and dissatisfaction.

Apr 02, 2012 Christina rated it really liked it
I'm so glad my partner came across this gem on one of our weekends away, in a little bookstore in Mystic, CT. I believe any reader could find something to connect with in these stories, but I felt a particular bond to the overall importance of place in Bergman's writing. I was raised and educated in South Carolina (Clemson MA with creative writing emphasis) but sought the progressive liberalism of Northern Vermont in 2003. In the years following our move, as life in VT became natural and even su ...more
Jun 04, 2013 Vanessa rated it really liked it
High 3, rounding to a 4.

Deeply moving collection of stories packed full of memorable, unique leading ladies. Not particularly the "type" of story collection I return to and think of again and again (that tends to be more of the sci-fi/speculative/dark genre), but each of Bergman's stories were profound and beautiful. Bergman's writing, both flawless and fluid, was the highlight of this reading experience for me. Many of her stories struck a chord. I believe the best in the collection include "Bi
Mar 08, 2012 Barbara marked it as to-read
This book was reviewed in The Boston Globe today in glowing terms. They proclaim Bergman, the author a "top notch emerging writer". Although short stories are not usually my first choice, the comments written were enticing!


Unfortunately, I did not get too far with this book because the library requested that I return it. Better luck next try...
Feb 24, 2014 Juliana rated it liked it
3,5 stars.
Tricia Tierney
Feb 05, 2012 Tricia Tierney rated it it was amazing
Have only read 2 stories and already have a book-crush. This is one of those books where you have to re-read sentences because they are so delicious.
Stef Smulders
Mar 26, 2017 Stef Smulders rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars
A stunning debut, fascinating, moving, with an occasional streak of (black) humor. Stories about the relation or conflict between nature and culture, instinct and reason. By which of the two does a character let herself lead in her choices and what are her doubts? Definitely worth rereading. The only minor point of criticism is that in a collection with such an outspoken common theme the stories sometimes show too much overlappings.
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it really liked it
Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman contains several very fine stories, especially the first three. Most of the stories are about animals and humans and how they interact. For instance, in the title story Ms. Bergman states that "I was taught that at the heart of all people, all things, lay raw self-interest. Sure, you could dress a person up nice, put pretty words in his mouth, but underneath the silk tie and pressed shirt was an animal. A territorial, hungry animal anxi ...more
Erik Evenson
Jan 31, 2012 Erik Evenson rated it it was amazing
A couple years back, I remember watching the BBC’s Planet Earth and coming away feeling more emotional, more confused, more elated, and more saddened than with anything I had seen or read in a long time. I remember Sir David Attenborough detail the life of a certain type of seal in Antarctica that used its teeth to scrape away ice so that it had access to water. Because of this, the seal’s teeth grind down and they can’t eat properly. The conclusion: “These seals die young.” There was also a kin ...more
May 06, 2012 Natalie rated it really liked it
Some of the stories in this collection are exceptional. Others, eh.

I was excited to read this collection after happening upon "The Cow Who Milked Herself" through Storyville (excellent App, by the way). I loved that story. It was throughful and tight and had animals in it. What more could a gal ask for? I was also excited because I read Bergman's bio and it talked about her husband the veteranian and discussed how she used this in her fiction.

There is a core of stories here that feel like they
Judith Hannan
Aug 11, 2012 Judith Hannan rated it it was amazing
Reading a volume of short stories straight through has often felt like speed dating to me, or at least what I imagine speed dating would be. With each story, I invest myself in the characters, plot, and emotional dilemma only to have the slate wiped clean when it's time to begin a new story. Of course, similar themes often arise, characters share overlapping traits and whatever knot the author is trying to untangle can often be found in each vignette. This was particularly the case in Megan Mayh ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Krystle rated it it was ok
One story at a time, well spread-out, probably would've sat better with me. But reading them as a collection got on my nerves.

The intended connecting thread is animals. The actual connecting thread is middle-aged women with mom problems. Either problems with their own mothers, or with entering into mothering roles.
And boy howdy, do mom problems get old with me fast.
(But imagine my surprise when "The Artificial Heart" was about dad-problems. Quel miracle!)

There was also this niggling feeling that
Mar 12, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
I'm really sad to be done with this book. I wanted it to go on longer - I want to read more of these stories! I can't decide whether to give it 4 or 5 stars. Let's say 4.5. This is a short story collection done really well. I loved her writing, her portrayal of women, of motherhood, of so many things. Each story had a connection to animals or nature in some way. But don't let that put you off if you're not an animal person. (I don't have a pet and I wouldn't call myself an "animal person" but I ...more
Dec 26, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! I haven't read many books of short stories but that will be changing now after experiencing this wonderful gem of a book. I was so surprised to find that I could be so thoroughly engrossed and connected with a story in so few pages. But I was, and with each and every story in the book. Megan Mayhew Bergman is an incredible author. Her characters felt so real and authentic. They had a transparency and openness to them that just reeled me right in. This was a special tha ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Meaning of the Title 1 8 Oct 05, 2013 07:55PM  
James River Writers: Currently Reading 2 8 Jul 11, 2013 07:13AM  
James River Writers: Finished Reading, Spoilers Allowed 1 5 Jul 02, 2013 01:25PM  
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • This Is Not Your City
  • What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
  • Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
  • Diving Belles
  • Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories
  • We Others: New and Selected Stories
  • Volt
  • Other People We Married
  • Safe as Houses
  • Battleborn
  • Monstress
  • Gryphon: New and Selected Stories
  • Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain: Stories
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • Vanishing and Other Stories
  • Burning Bright
  • Girl Trouble: Stories
Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Almost Famous Women (January 2015) and Birds of a Lesser Paradise (March 2012) - both from Scribner, and both Indie Next selections. Megan was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and will receive the Garrett Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

Megan's work has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Short Stories 2011
More about Megan Mayhew Bergman...

Share This Book

“Mothers, I believe, intoxicate us. We idolize them and take them for granted. We hate them and blame them and exalt them more thoroughly than anyone else in our lives. We sift through the evidence of their love, reassure ourselves of their affection and its biological genesis. We can steal and lie and leave and they will love us.” 33 likes
“I wanted, then, to become what I most admired, what now seemed most real to me. I wanted to be that exalted, complicated presence in someone's life, the familiar body, the source of another's existence. But I knew what I wanted was not always what I needed.” 7 likes
More quotes…