Monday, May 7, 2012

Put a bird on it

Book: Birds of a Lesser Paradise
Author: Megan Mayhew Bergman
Published: 2012 (Scribner)
Pages: 221

I found a way to check out this book because it’s short stories with an owl on the cover. It knows how to get my attention.
And I enjoyed these stories, albeit in a very quiet way. They are prime examples of lit fic, with one potentially interesting stab at half-hearted (pun intended because the old dude wears an artificial heart) sci fi about an old survivalist living with his daughter and her partner who accidentally steals the old man’s Alzheimer’s patient girlfriend while they’re all trying to live in a rapidly drying up world.
That’s also the only story that doesn’t have animals figure into themes of family, love, and protection that, though hard-won, are almost never strong enough to last. People leave and animals die and everybody wonders what they’re doing here.
I appreciate how the author doesn’t try to add substance by going needlessly artsy on the prose. She presents slices of not-quite-ordinary lives as they are; the thematic metaphors are there for readers who want them. That is either a good command of subtlety or boring, depending on how much you like cows.
I felt really cheated that there wasn’t at least one story about an owl, though. At this point, owls are shorthand for quirky on par with handlebar mustaches, so I never really know whether the picture means anything or not.  

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