Books Made of Paper

Megan Mayhew Bergman: ‘Birds of a Lesser Paradise’

I’m breaking a few of my rules—this book is new and is in hardcover and I am going to tell you to buy it. It was written by a dear friend, Megan Mayhew Bergman, and it’s beautiful.

It is impossible to separate a friend from an author when reading a friend’s book. So I won’t try. I love the short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise because it’s written with wit, heart and bravery. But I also love it because I know how much of Megan is in it, and I know something of what went into putting it to paper and on a bookshelf.

Megan and I attended an MFA program together and we met just before she moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Shaftsbury, Vermont. Her life changed in dramatic ways, a lot of which is chronicled in her blog. I find it interesting how many of Megan’s stories are set in her old roots, down south, while her subject matter is paved with the color of the farm life she now lives.

Last week I got to see Megan give a reading, and she apologized for making me cry. You see, my new barometer for good reading is whether it makes me cry on the subway (see my last post). Someone hand me a brilliant funny book! But the crying wasn’t a bad thing. The emotion comes from the fact that Megan’s characters are carrying the aging of their parents, the death of their pets and the vulnerability of becoming a mother on their shoulders. They’re desperate, they’re grateful and they’re lost. We have all experienced some of these things.

But what’s more important to me in a book of fiction than even what the writer is trying to convey is how they do it. If everything to say has already been said, then what matters most is how you say it. Megan has a killer way of capturing a character in a moment with a sharp line.

I vividly remember visiting Megan at her home in Raleigh what seems like a decade ago, but was actually four years. I can’t believe how much has changed in our lives since then. A lot was happening very fast for Megan at the time, and I see a lot of that change reflected in her writing. Her characters try to get a grasp on the world they’re living in, but that’s all they can do: try.

You won’t regret reading this fabulous book—no bias here! Also, check out this lovely video Megan created for her book plus a schedule of her upcoming appearances!

Images via Megan’s website.

Top image from Barnes & Noble.