Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Scribner
Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss
I rarely choose to read short stories so I surprised myself at being drawn to Almost Famous Women, a short story collection by Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise. I am so glad that I requested this book!. I was intrigued by the concept of stories about women who had brushes with fame and were then somewhat lost to history. The stories bounce between a painter and a racially integrated swing band travelling the American south; and from Africa to England. As I read I was bouncing between Google and my kindle trying to learn more than the stories could give me. I certainly wasn’t familiar with Oscar Wilde’s niece Dolly or conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. While I know of Butterfly McQueen of course, thanks to Gone with the Wind, I hadn’t given much thought to her life after the movies. I loved the photos that came with each story. Even though the stories were fictional I felt they were enriched with an image of who each woman was.
Some of these were too short for me- I have a hard time with stories that are basically a page long. But most of these stories both fulfilled me as a reader and left me wanting more -in a good way! The stories range in perspective, in time period, from toddlerhood to those at death’s door. The experiences ranging from a child living in an Italian convent to a private island off the U.S. coast kept each story fresh and fascinating. The writing was beautiful throughout and I really felt the longing and the sorrow, as well as the hope and love. Without always being in first person Bergman really me feel that I knew each woman and made her more than an almost famous name. I will definitely be checking out Bergman’s past book.
Thank you Scribner and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.