From Birds of A Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman – Scribner – March 2012

“At first, it is so quiet my teeth hurt.” This line falls somewhere in the middle of this first story, and comes while our motherly narrator is standing in her childhood home, after she’s broken in. She wants to show her son around, as they are on a trip to find a bird that was once a pet of our narrator’s mother, as the bird sounds just like her.

This collection grabbed me right from the start when the mother doing the talking tells us that her son Ike is a forty-three-pound drama queen, who knows many of the words to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s oeuvre. It is of great interest what happens to these two, and what happened to the now deceased mother. We toggle back and forth between the moments when the put upon daughter remembers her mother, and how she screwed it all up. When does a daughter become a friend of her mother? And when does a mother say, “You’re my daughter. Grow up. I can’t take care of you anymore.” And “You don’t have to help me.” These questions drift in the riptide of this story.

Once we find out that our narrator doesn’t know Ike’s father, that her relationship with this man was a series of one night stands, I thought things would go sideways. As if, in a moment, this woman and child could disappear, no proof of existence, and that we are somehow hearing the final trip of these two before they fall off the grid.

I love the details Ms. Bergman uses when describing the entrance to the zoo they are walking through so they can visit the bird in question. Love doesn’t cover my feelings, accurately. This is a stop what you’re doing story, ask your S&S rep, get a copy, read it now.