counter create hit A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

Availability: Ready to download

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area uppe A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.


Compare

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area uppe A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.

30 review for A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    My foundation as a writer was shaped by these stories. I first read most of them in 1984, when I went to grad school in writing at U of Colorado in Boulder. Lucia was one of several wonderful profs I had there, but it was her stories alone that I read, with awe, and said, "THAT is what I want to do!" Quiet awe, by the way. That's the beauty of these stories. No kings or dukes or ladies in waiting losing their heads or fighting for the crown. No grand sweeping anything, no boisterous narrator, sho My foundation as a writer was shaped by these stories. I first read most of them in 1984, when I went to grad school in writing at U of Colorado in Boulder. Lucia was one of several wonderful profs I had there, but it was her stories alone that I read, with awe, and said, "THAT is what I want to do!" Quiet awe, by the way. That's the beauty of these stories. No kings or dukes or ladies in waiting losing their heads or fighting for the crown. No grand sweeping anything, no boisterous narrator, showing off. But no boring MFA stories full of pretty sentences about nothing, either. Just raw, gripping tales about switchboard operators, cleaning ladies and shy little Protestant girls trying to fit in in Catholic school. They are immediately engaging, with that voice, that draws you in with its candor as well as its insight. Lucia had an extraordinary ability to gaze right inside of people, sort of an emotional x-ray vision, with the people in her lives and her characters. (Of course those are the same--or the latter came from the former. She had that uncanny ability in life, and spilled it seemingly effortlessly onto the page.) Fifteen years later, when I published Columbine, you can witness my attempt to emulate Lucia on every page. I hope I was worthy. I keep reading her, trying to get closer to the Lucia ideal, though I never will. My favorite story is "My Jockey," and I've read it probably 100 times. If I can do what she did there, once, ever, that will be enough. (I was lucky enough to read this book in galleys. It's coming out Aug. 18.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I know already, just four stories in, that this will be a 5-Star read for me. And that a few weeks from now—because I am reading slowly, to savor each bit— I will struggle to pick my favorites from the forty-two short stories collected here. So this review contains tidbits from those stories which most capture my heart and brain and I will update as I move along. Angel's Laundromat A laundromat . . . that transient, warm, sad space . . . where we watch others sorting, folding, watching us... But I know already, just four stories in, that this will be a 5-Star read for me. And that a few weeks from now—because I am reading slowly, to savor each bit— I will struggle to pick my favorites from the forty-two short stories collected here. So this review contains tidbits from those stories which most capture my heart and brain and I will update as I move along. Angel's Laundromat A laundromat . . . that transient, warm, sad space . . . where we watch others sorting, folding, watching us... But mostly we're all just waiting. It's a waiting space. One of the loneliest. Berlin captures this loneliness, and the chance encounters possible if we happen to catch the eye of someone else sitting in those miserable molded plastic seats. Dr. H.A. Moynihan Wherein a young girl yanks out all her Grandpa's teeth. Not quite as vicious as it sounds, but also not for the faint of heart. Fabulous. Brutal. Stars and Saints Lucia Berlin comes up with these sentences, buried amidst all her brilliant sentences, that make me ache to write. This, That day on the playground I knew that never in my life was I going to get in. It's a brilliant opening line, don't you think? One I'd like to craft an entire story around. Yet it's just one in a collection of such lines in this wry, strange and sad little story. A Manual for Cleaning Women Oh. This. Ache. Melancholy. Grief. The beauty of being present. Like the laundromat, Berlin takes us into another transient, lonely space. Here it is a city bus, where one sees the same faces traveling the same routes, where relationships are built from habit and shared experience, in those brief, moving encounters. El Time Every high school teacher's nightmare: the student who is smarter, stronger, full of cunning and allure. Her First Detox A mother of four sons, a successful teacher, awakens in a detox unit without any knowledge of how she got there, or memories of her most recent binge to become the darling of the ward. Sweet, tender, devastating. Emergency Room Notebook, 1977 and Temps Perdu Both stories gleaned from the author's experiences working in hospital wards. Good deaths and bad deaths, Code Threes and Code Blues. Spare, unflinching, brilliant. Todo Luna, Todo Año A middle-aged English teacher on holiday at a Mexican beach resort. Love, tragedy, scuba diving. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Melina Short story perfection. One of those you'd teach in an English class because it's so elegantly, precisely constructed, with a BAM ending. Unmanageable The horror of alcohol addiction rendered in three tight, devastating pages. Strays I read this aloud, because the language was so powerful. The sentences like knife cuts and hammer blows. The content so upsetting. This story will stay with me for a long time to come. Grief, Fool to Cry, Panteón de Dolores, Mama, Wait A Minute There are a string of stories, starting with the aforementioned Todo Luna, Todo Año featuring the two sisters Sally and Dolores, connected but not- each is a sketch, a study, a new angle on the motif of these sisters' shared and disparate experiences. Sally, long a resident of Mexico City, is dying of cancer; Dolores arrives to care for her, and their perspectives are threaded through in moments of reflection and tangled action/reaction. Mexico City, in its frenetic rush to live and die furiously, noisily, with color and music and trampling feet, becomes a character in its own right. Carmen, Mijito Berlin conveys despair in such a way that despite yourself, you cannot look away. These young woman speak directly to the reader with such a lack of spite, bitterness, regret; their lives are a series of horrors, yet each moves through like a bird through a storm cloud. The best and worst of the human condition live in these stories. Silence A young girl's voice, heard/no heard, as she navigates the terrible world of adults, seeking beauty. Will she end up just like them? Sighs, the rhythms of our heartbeats, contractions of childbirth, orgasms, all flow into time just as the pendulum clocks placed next to one another son beat in unison. Fireflies in a tree flash on and off as one .The sun comes up and it foes down. The moon waxes and wanes and usually the morning paper hits the porch at six thirty-five. Time stops when someone dies. Time stops with each story in this collection. These are not easy reads and I needed a deep breath and some distance after each story. But Berlin's is some of the most astonishing writing I have read. Ever. It pains me that it has taken so long for us to recognize her power and mastery, that she will never know how deeply she has affected this new generation of readers. But do yourself a favor. Make it a priority to read this collection- take all the time you need, dip in and out, but know that you will finish a different human being than when you started.

  3. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    Warning: Skip the two introductions to the book, unless you want to know how many of the stories end before you read them. In the case of the audio book, skip ahead to track 15 of CD 1. What were the people who wrote the introductions, and then the people who let them do it, thinking?! A beautiful collection of short stories that inspire compassion and imagination. The multiple audiobook readers did well. Given how the book is autobiographically inspired and the author was fluent in Spanish, it w Warning: Skip the two introductions to the book, unless you want to know how many of the stories end before you read them. In the case of the audio book, skip ahead to track 15 of CD 1. What were the people who wrote the introductions, and then the people who let them do it, thinking?! A beautiful collection of short stories that inspire compassion and imagination. The multiple audiobook readers did well. Given how the book is autobiographically inspired and the author was fluent in Spanish, it would have been better if the readers had checked the occassional Spanish words included. Also, would have enjoyed knowing who each reader was.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Adamson

    I first met Lucia Berlin in 1991 as the significant other of one of her sons, who remains my closest friend. Though I knew she wrote short stories, it was something that was mentioned in passing and I never seemed to make the time to read them. I am thankful that I didn't. My age and experiences have just added to the thrill of discovering her writing now. I wish you could be here to see this, Lucia. Your time has come. I was a little afraid to read this book. What if I didn't like it? Or think I first met Lucia Berlin in 1991 as the significant other of one of her sons, who remains my closest friend. Though I knew she wrote short stories, it was something that was mentioned in passing and I never seemed to make the time to read them. I am thankful that I didn't. My age and experiences have just added to the thrill of discovering her writing now. I wish you could be here to see this, Lucia. Your time has come. I was a little afraid to read this book. What if I didn't like it? Or think it was good? I wanted to have a good perspective so I read new stories by Alice Munro, Hilary Mantell, Elizabeth McCracken, Edith Pearlman… and then I started "A Manual for Cleaning Women". I'm not sure what I expected but I did not expect the brilliance that I found. I absolutely LOVE this book. I have laughed out loud, I have shed tears and marveled at the language. But more than anything, I see myself in a different way with the light of her writing shining on me. Entertainment Weekly has it right. If you read one book this summer, read this one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Evocative and sharp, the stories of A Manual for Cleaning Women vividly portray the joys and pains of everyday life. In neat prose Berlin lends a voice to women in the Southwest as they navigate difficult terrain such as divorce, alcoholism, death, and existential angst, all the while seeking pleasure and solace in small miracles. A widowed school teacher reinvents herself on vacation in "Todo Luna, Todo Año," while two sisters cope with the sorry state of their lives at a beachside resort in "G Evocative and sharp, the stories of A Manual for Cleaning Women vividly portray the joys and pains of everyday life. In neat prose Berlin lends a voice to women in the Southwest as they navigate difficult terrain such as divorce, alcoholism, death, and existential angst, all the while seeking pleasure and solace in small miracles. A widowed school teacher reinvents herself on vacation in "Todo Luna, Todo Año," while two sisters cope with the sorry state of their lives at a beachside resort in "Grief." Many of the best pieces are reflective and autobiographical, reading more like literary personal essays; the opening story fully renders the author-narrator's fleeting connection with a Native man at a laundromat, and there's nothing else quite like it in the collection. Berlin has a talent for descriptive prose, but her plotting tends to be predictable, her characterization solid but not especially nuanced. Favorites include "Angel's Laundromat," "Stars and Saints," and "A Manual for Cleaning Women."

  6. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    I had never heard of this author before until coming across it in Goodreads. I am once thankful for this website…if it weren’t for several readers who said that they really liked this book, I would not have read this great collection of short stories. The book consists of 41 short stories by Lucia Berlin primarily pulled from her books published from 1981-1999. The book presents a good chunk of her writing as her total number of short stories written is 76. The average length of the short storie I had never heard of this author before until coming across it in Goodreads. I am once thankful for this website…if it weren’t for several readers who said that they really liked this book, I would not have read this great collection of short stories. The book consists of 41 short stories by Lucia Berlin primarily pulled from her books published from 1981-1999. The book presents a good chunk of her writing as her total number of short stories written is 76. The average length of the short stories are 8-15 pages, shortest one is 1 page and longest one is 31. Lucia Berlin battled alcoholism for a number of years of her life — I only bring that up because there are a lot of alcoholic characters in her stories, and because we are told in the foreword by Lydia Davis that many of the stories are based on events in her own life. One of her sons said, after her death, “Ma wrote true stories, not necessarily autobiographical, but close enough for horseshoes….Our family stories and memories have been slowly reshaped, embellished, and edited to the extent that I’m not sure what really happened all the time. Lucia said this didn’t matter: the story is the thing.” Lydia Davis in the Foreward states that Lucia did invent fictional characters and events…so this collection shouldn’t be read as a memoir verbatim. I thought the writing was extremely good. Her writing was evocative. Not verbose. Most of the stories held my attention. One of her stories made me tear up (Mourning). Some stories were very sad, and some perhaps not for the faint of heart. In fact Maureen Corrigan in her review of the book on NPR [National Public Radio] says “If you want consolation or uplift from your short stories, look elsewhere.” A link to her review is below. I made special note of five stories I really liked: “Stars and Saints,” “Good and Bad,” “Electric Car, El Paso,” “Grief,” “Mourning,” and “Homing”. I should also note that she did something interesting…there were two short stories that were separate from each other but that were linked….one began “Silence” (320) where the other left off “Stars and Saints” (p. 17). I still remember one phrase that I really liked — a protagonist was looking down from a roof onto a highway some distance away and saw the cars as “a bracelet of headlights”. Oh, and I learned a new word: ‘alpenglow’ (an optical phenomenon that appears as a horizontal reddish glow near the horizon opposite to the Sun when the solar disk is just below the horizon. This effect is easily visible when mountains are illuminated, but can also be seen when clouds are lit through backscatter.). Lydia Davis at the time of this collection was published (2015) said that: “I have always had faith that the best writers will rise to the top, like cream, sooner or later, and will become exactly as well known as they should be — their work talked about, quoted, taught, performed, filmed, set to music, anthologized. Perhaps with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves.” I second that. 😊 And indeed it did gain her attention — I just went to Wikipedia to see if there was something of interest to post with my review and was so glad to see that this book “hit The New York Times bestseller list in its second week…The collection was ineligible for most of the year-end awards (either because she was deceased, or it was recollected material), but was named to a large number of year-end lists, including the New York Times Book Review's "10 Best Books of 2015”. 😊 Here is the link to the Wikipedia webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucia_B... Reviews: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/19/bo... (Jim: The reviewer [Dwight Garner] very much liked the collection but thought it could be shortened by 50%. And that is my only criticism of the collection - if one could call it that: I would recommend reading maybe several stories at a time and making a decision to read this over a matter of weeks….rather than trying to do it in one long slog without looking at other books, which is what I did.) https://www.theguardian.com/books/201... https://www.npr.org/2015/08/24/432748...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Francesca Marciano

    What a wonderful discovery: how is it possible only few of us knew of Lucia Berlin? Hard core readers should all be in love with her without question. Her stories are pitch perfect: witty, unpredictable,funny, tragic, sad. Her humor is oblique, original. The stories are so personal, clearly autobiographical, and I wonder if there were a few - about her alcoholism so painful to read - that she may have not wanted to see them published. No matter how self destructive she may have been, there is al What a wonderful discovery: how is it possible only few of us knew of Lucia Berlin? Hard core readers should all be in love with her without question. Her stories are pitch perfect: witty, unpredictable,funny, tragic, sad. Her humor is oblique, original. The stories are so personal, clearly autobiographical, and I wonder if there were a few - about her alcoholism so painful to read - that she may have not wanted to see them published. No matter how self destructive she may have been, there is always joy, love and lust for life in each story, a spark of hope. And what a beautiful woman she was. (four stars instead of five only because in this pretty thick collection, a few stories were weaker than others and slightly repoetitive. But only a few.... )

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julianne (Outlandish Lit)

    I wasn't going to review this book. I really wasn't. Because how does one even begin to go about describing what it feels like to be in love? Ok, maybe that's hyperbolic, but at the same time I'm feeling the same excitement and utter loss for words. I almost skipped this book because of all the hype. Because that's the kind of person I am. I figured there's no way I won't be disappointed by a book getting this much press and acclaim. But I am here to tell you that I, the coldest heart this side I wasn't going to review this book. I really wasn't. Because how does one even begin to go about describing what it feels like to be in love? Ok, maybe that's hyperbolic, but at the same time I'm feeling the same excitement and utter loss for words. I almost skipped this book because of all the hype. Because that's the kind of person I am. I figured there's no way I won't be disappointed by a book getting this much press and acclaim. But I am here to tell you that I, the coldest heart this side of the Mississippi, always ready and willing to hate, believe the hype is entirely justified and that this book needs more. This collection of short stories is a masterpiece. I've only had this feeling with a few other authors. Shirley Jackson, Lydia Davis, Vladimir Nabokov. You just have a moment when you're reading where you go "wow, this person is actually a literary genius and I am not worthy." Prepare yourself for that feeling. Lucia Berlin is incredible in the least pretentious way possible. When you read her stories it's like being told a story by a friend. Granted, a friend who's seen a lot of life. Her writing is beautiful without it being easy to put your finger on why. Not a word is wasted and her voice is so strong and compelling. Normally I mark a bunch of passages that I like, but I had to give up with Berlin, because I loved it all so much. I was running out of book darts. "After a long time the cranes did come. Hundreds, just as the sky turned blue-gray. They had landed in slow motion on brittle legs. Washing, preening on the bank. Everything was suddenly black and white and gray, a movie after the credits, churning. As the cranes drank upstream the silver water beneath them was shot into dozens of thin streamers. Then very quickly the birds left, in whiteness, with the sound of shuffling cards." The stories in this book are a selection of her best works put in order chronologically. What's brilliant about this is that Lucia Berlin writes very autobiographical stories. It essentially feels like you're growing beside her, like you're watching her life unfold. And this lady has been through all sorts of shit. For a while she lived in mining camps in America, then she moved to Chile where she lived flamboyantly into her 20s. She moved back to America and lived much less flamboyantly. She worked as a maid. She was married 3 times, had some kids, had some affairs, and struggled with alcoholism for most of her life. Most of her stories are about poverty, alcoholism, relationships, family, death. That's part of why I thought I wouldn't be interested, but I was wrong. Berlin is sharp as a tack, she has all sorts of hutzpah, and boy can she tell a story (often in only a few pages or less). "Women’s voices always rise two octaves when they talk to cleaning women or cats." I still really don't know what to say about this collection of short stories. I'm tongue-tied. I don't want to try to describe the pieces, because I know they'll all fall flat in my summation. All I can ask is that you please take the time to AT LEAST read this excerpt from it. "Carpe Diem" was one of the stories that really got to me and you can read it online here. I'm so grateful to have read A Manual for Cleaning Women. I genuinely feel lucky to have had the opportunity, which is an incredible feeling to have after reading a book. I want you to feel that too. "The only reason I have lived so long is that I let go of my past. Shut the door on grief on regret on remorse. If I let them in, just one self-indulgent crack, whap, the door will fling open gales of pain ripping through my heart blinding my eyes with shame breaking cups and bottles knocking down jars shattering windows stumbling bloody on spilled sugar and broken glass terrified gagging until with a final shudder and sob I shut the heavy door. Pick up the pieces one more time." Full review: Outlandish Lit

  9. 5 out of 5

    Silvanna

    Reading this collection of short stories was a little like going to MOMA and admiring a piece of modern art you know nothing about. At first you think, hmm, it's kinda neat, but then the harder you look the more the beauty shines through. As the stories unfold in A Manual for Cleaning Women you realize they are all loosely connected, that there is a strand of consciousness. Gradually, Berlin's words begin to eat away at you. I won't say I loved this book but what I will say is that her words haunt Reading this collection of short stories was a little like going to MOMA and admiring a piece of modern art you know nothing about. At first you think, hmm, it's kinda neat, but then the harder you look the more the beauty shines through. As the stories unfold in A Manual for Cleaning Women you realize they are all loosely connected, that there is a strand of consciousness. Gradually, Berlin's words begin to eat away at you. I won't say I loved this book but what I will say is that her words haunted me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    I am not a good reader of short stories. I find them anticlimactic. And they don’t stick in my memory the way a novel does. It was the window of a bookshop in the center of Madrid that first presented me Lucia Berlin. I was walking around with friends after a tapas round and we all took notice of the very alluring exhibit. I can’t identify what intrigued me about the way her books were displayed. Soon after one of the friends gave me this volume (view spoiler)[in Spanish but I could exchange it I am not a good reader of short stories. I find them anticlimactic. And they don’t stick in my memory the way a novel does. It was the window of a bookshop in the center of Madrid that first presented me Lucia Berlin. I was walking around with friends after a tapas round and we all took notice of the very alluring exhibit. I can’t identify what intrigued me about the way her books were displayed. Soon after one of the friends gave me this volume (view spoiler)[in Spanish but I could exchange it for the English edition (hide spoiler)] . Had I gone to buy it, realizing that it was not a novel would have probably prevented me from purchasing it. Gifts are very often blessed gifts. When I began reading it, however, the usual anticlimactic effect of short stories prompted an even greater puzzling response. I felt very uncomfortable with some of the episodes and began to wonder how much longer it would take me to finish the volume. The dreariness and the bleakness were so discouraging, offputting even. It made me think of the tetralogy of Elena Ferrante with their depiction of Neapolitan misery and wondered what was different between them –apart from the very Americanness and the very Italianness— why one elicited a certain rebuff while the other one just glued me. I wondered whether Berlin’s accounts rang more true and therefore more hopeless. Anyway, about half-way through the collection, suddenly something clicked in my mind and I realized that the stories could be conceived as a single novel -- a sort of partly fictionalised autobiography -- and that I had missed the whole point behind the various accounts. Consequently I thought that I was a pretty stupid reader. So, this is half a review – I want to reread the book paying attention to how the fragmented accounts can form a single narrative with a continuity of sorts and then come back to this writeup. And yet, after realizing my stupidity I went back to the introductions (one excellent by Lydia Davis) and then saw that no, this is officially a collection of stories, and the selection and order in this edition is not Lucia Berlin’s but Stephen Emerson’s- So, my new conception of this being a novel is most probably a stupid one. This could not be another Cortazar’sRayuela. Or maybe not. I have to read it again – as a novel – and see what my conclusion will be. I am also now fascinated (obsessed?) by Berlin’s writing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4.5★ “Afterward we went to a Chinese restaurant. But it was closing. ‘Yes, we always arrive when it’s closing. That’s when they order takeout pizza.’ How they had originally found this out I can’t imagine. They introduced me to the waiter and we gave him money. Then we sat around a big table with the waiters and chefs and dishwashers, eating pizzas and drinking Cokes. The lights were off; we ate by candlelight. They were all speaking Chinese, nodding to us as they passed around different kinds of 4.5★ “Afterward we went to a Chinese restaurant. But it was closing. ‘Yes, we always arrive when it’s closing. That’s when they order takeout pizza.’ How they had originally found this out I can’t imagine. They introduced me to the waiter and we gave him money. Then we sat around a big table with the waiters and chefs and dishwashers, eating pizzas and drinking Cokes. The lights were off; we ate by candlelight. They were all speaking Chinese, nodding to us as they passed around different kinds of pizza. I felt somehow that I was in a real Chinese restaurant.” Lucia Berlin’s stories have been much acclaimed for a long time. The quotation above is typical of them only in the unusual juxtaposition of people and circumstances. Mostly, she writes from her own life, not in any order, and many of the stories feature alcoholics, drug addicts, violent encounters, and/or living a free-and-easy life with a kind of abandon. I can’t begin to summarise anything, about the stories. It’s enough to say that each has its own appeal. Some are rough and raw and uncomfortable, and some are tender and insightful, with characters from young children to extremely old people. There has been a fair bit written about her work, so I’ll just add a bit from the biography and a few quotes I liked. The stories aren’t written as if they’re autobiographical, but they obviously come from her life. Her own life is outlined at the end of the book, and it must have been an unusual one. She was certainly striking looking. This is a common publicity shot from 1963, taken by her then husband, jazz musician Buddy Berlin. Lucia Berlin, 1963, by Buddy Berlin She was born in Alaska in 1936 where her father was a miner, so she began life in mining camps. In one story, “she” (the narrator) is five, and Kent Shreve is her boyfriend/best friend. “As far back as I can remember I have made a very bad first impression. That time in Montana when all I was trying to do was get Kent Shreve’s socks off so we could go barefoot but they were pinned to his drawers.” You can imagine what the adults must have made of that! In 1941, her father was off to war, so her mother moved the two girls to El Paso, where grandfather was a dentist and a drunk. (Doesn’t bear thinking about!) Here’s a quote from one story, which takes on a whole new meaning when you know who the dentist is. “I hated St. Joseph’s. Terrified by the nuns, I struck Sister Cecilia one hot Texas day and was expelled. As punishment, I had to work every day of summer vacation in Grandpa’s dental office.” After the war, they all moved to Chile, where mother was a drunk while she played hostess to father’s guests, like Prince Aly Khan, and had what the editor refers to as a “rather flamboyant existence.” In 1955, she went to the University of New Mexico. She married a sculptor, mixed with writers and musicians, married Buddy Berlin, a jazz musician, and began to write. Her settings range from little kids playing, older kids experimenting, ER hospital worker, and many others, including, of course, cleaning women. This is from the title story. “Some lady at a bridge party somewhere started the rumor that to test the honesty of a cleaning woman you leave little rosebud ashtrays around with loose change in them, here and there. My solution to this is to always add a few pennies, even a dime.” This is a pair of young friends on a sleepover. “We stayed awake waiting to hear his parents doing it but they never did. I asked him what he thought it was like. He held his hand up to mine so our fingers were all touching, had me run my thumb and forefinger over our touching ones. You can’t tell which is which. Must be something like that he said.” From one of the hospital stories. “I like my job in Emergency. Blood, bones, tendons seem like affirmations to me. I am awed by the human body, by its endurance. Thank God—because it’ll be hours before X-ray or Demerol. Maybe I’m morbid. I am fascinated by two fingers in a baggie, a glittering switchblade all the way out of a lean pimp’s back. I like the fact that, in Emergency, everything is reparable, or not.” A discussion of death, also in the hospital. “Mr. Gionotti’s death was good. . . . “There were a lot of them, sitting, standing, touching, smoking, laughing sometimes. I felt I was present at a celebration, a family reunion. One thing I do know about death. The ‘better’ the person, the more loving and happy and caring, the less of a gap that person’s death makes. When Mr. Gionotti died, well, he was dead, and Mrs. Gionotti wept, they all did, but they all went weeping off together, and with him, really.” There were stories in Mexico. Occasionally there are recurring characters or overlapping stories. There are one-night stands, short dalliances, and longer love affairs. Most include sensual, languid scenes, where couples almost accidentally just happen to make love, and they make you wonder what her young life was like. She certainly has a good understanding of people living in pent-up, nervous America compared to laid-back Hispanic countries. “Solitude is an Anglo-Saxon concept. In Mexico City, if you’re the only person on a bus and someone gets on they’ll not only come next to you, they will lean against you.” From another story: “I miss the moon. I miss solitude. In Mexico there is never not anyone else there. If you go into your room to read somebody will notice you’re by yourself and go keep you company.” There is an especially sensual, sexual holiday affair in a Mexican village, where American visitor Eloise convinces a local fisherman to teach her to scuba dive and they end up entwined underwater. Terrific writer. These are five-star stories, no doubt, but I recommend reading them piecemeal, not one after another. I read too many in a row, and it made it feel repetitious, but I’m afraid that’s my fault, not the author’s or the editor’s. More here: http://luciaberlin.com/

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laysee

    "A Manual For Cleaning Women" is a collection of 43 stories about women in all kinds of demanding jobs: cleaning woman, laundry hand, teacher, doctor's assistant, ER nurse, ward clerk, and switchboard operator. Most of these stories are autobiographical. The lives of these women - broken, wretched, heart-breaking - are veiled versions of Berlin's own. This comes close to a 5-star read. Berlin had a tumultuous childhood, dysfunctional parents and grandparents who drink, three failed marriages, fou "A Manual For Cleaning Women" is a collection of 43 stories about women in all kinds of demanding jobs: cleaning woman, laundry hand, teacher, doctor's assistant, ER nurse, ward clerk, and switchboard operator. Most of these stories are autobiographical. The lives of these women - broken, wretched, heart-breaking - are veiled versions of Berlin's own. This comes close to a 5-star read. Berlin had a tumultuous childhood, dysfunctional parents and grandparents who drink, three failed marriages, four children she raised on her own, and a very long addiction to alcohol. The stories - raw, gritty, biting, honest - bear her battle scars. Yet, there is in these painful stories a reservoir of self-denigrating humor, a gleeful self-reproach that bubbles up from the crackpots of the women's lives and erupts into emancipating laughter. Perhaps, there is saving grace in not taking oneself too seriously and redemption in being able to laugh at or cry over one's folly. In the story, "Point of View", the narrator, a single woman in her 50s, contemplates writing her life story. She is in love with the doctor she works for but who disdains and despises her affection for him. Most of Berlin's stories in the book are just like this one where nothing much happens. They are about women who work to make ends meet, take a bus home, eat a meagre dinner, do laundry and groceries on Saturday, and buy the Sunday Chronicle. Folks who are compelled by their life circumstances to endless labor can identify with this: "I'm having a hard time writing about Sunday. Getting the long hollow feeling of Sundays. No mail and faraway lawn mowers, the hopelessness." There are comic stories such as "Stars and Saints" about the author as an impish child expelled for hitting a nun or "Dr. H. A. Moynihan" about her half-crazed, drunk and racist grandfather who was a dentist. There are moving stories (e.g.,"Grief") about the author caring for her dying sister. A poignant story is "Wait A Minute" that conveys how time is changed by terminal illness and stopped by death. Individuals who have given care to loved ones suffering from terminal disease can relate to this: "...time turns sadistically slow. Death just hangs around while you wait for it to be night and then wait for it to be morning. Every day you've said good-bye a little." A large number of stories (e.g., "Unmanageable", "Step", "Strays") offer a staggering revelation of how lives are lost to alcohol and mangled in detox centers. I have to say I am completely worn out by a surfeit of moral laxity and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. I am also alarmed at my own feelings of revulsion and a hardening that begin to steal over me as these stories repeat themselves many times over. "Let Me See You Smile", for example, is one of those deeply disturbing stories where one's milk of human kindness dries up at the unconscionable ways in which the children of parents who drink are neglected and abused. Special mention ought to be made of a powerful story titled "Here it is Saturday". Inmates in a correctional facility are taught story writing. It is wonderful to read how the medium of writing allows them to get in touch with their deepest needs and to connect with others. I believe this is testament to the way writing plays a significant role in helping Berlin to reconstruct her life. That the desperate struggles with alcohol feature so prominently in these stories suggest how powerful a stronghold it had over her. Much as I enjoy Berlin's writing and wit in this collection of stories, I am glad to have finally finished this "manual". If there were fewer stories that kept pounding the same depressing themes, this would have been an exceptional book. Less is more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    3.5 I had no preconceptions going into this volume of short stories, even vaguely wondered if it might be a translation due to my unfamiliarity with the name of the author and my maybe knowing ahead of time (from blurbs) that some of the stories’ locales are Mexico and South America. Though Berlin knew some Spanish, she’s an English writer, born in the United States, who led an extraordinary life—a life that fuels all of her stories. Due to this fueling, some of the stories, read close together, 3.5 I had no preconceptions going into this volume of short stories, even vaguely wondered if it might be a translation due to my unfamiliarity with the name of the author and my maybe knowing ahead of time (from blurbs) that some of the stories’ locales are Mexico and South America. Though Berlin knew some Spanish, she’s an English writer, born in the United States, who led an extraordinary life—a life that fuels all of her stories. Due to this fueling, some of the stories, read close together, come to seem repetitive, as if she’s working out her themes. She likely was. As only one example, several stories about her sister culminate in “Wait a Minute,” the penultimate, and my favorite, of the collection. Her descriptions of time in this gorgeous story are masterful. Though some stories might seem throwaways, they all juxtapose humor and darkness in varying degrees, are quirky and unique, none reminding me of any other writer. I could make a case for a better tighter collection if it held fewer stories, but in the long run, especially for her fans, it’s probably nice to have these all together. Most of her stories have great endings, including “Mijito,” the story of a young immigrant mother that not only broke my heart but shattered it into little pieces. And as I finished the last paragraph of the last story and realized it was the last, I experienced a sense of loss—and satisfaction.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin is an amazingly wonderful collection of short stories. They share themes and characters so in some ways this collection shares some of the feeling of a novel but each story is a complete, vivid moment in itself. The people are so realized that I found myself thinking of them as real-more real in some ways than people who are actually alive since I got to know these people so much better than you can get to know most people you meet. E A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin is an amazingly wonderful collection of short stories. They share themes and characters so in some ways this collection shares some of the feeling of a novel but each story is a complete, vivid moment in itself. The people are so realized that I found myself thinking of them as real-more real in some ways than people who are actually alive since I got to know these people so much better than you can get to know most people you meet. Especially the female character, who seems in many ways to be a stand-in for Berlin. The pacing is perfect. There is a painful humor throughout these stories, which are marked by suffering. I finished sad that I would not be with this book as a companion. One of the things I like about short stories is I know I will be able to reread them more often than a novel. I took this out from the library but went out and bought it after reading some of the stories. I knew this was a book I wanted to own and cherish. According to the brief descriptions, Berlin's life was apparently full of adventure and suffering. She communicates these qualities beautifully in her work, although the adventures are mostly emotional. Like Berlin, the narrator of many of the stories struggles with alcoholism, the death of her sister, a sadly dysfunctional family and intense love affairs. But to sum up the work this way is, I think, to miss the point. The point, at least what I took from the stories, was that Berlin creates an intense experience of life in these stories that includes but also transcends the suffering within them. It was an incredible reading experience. Although the stories are short, I couldn't read them quickly. They are dense and full of life. I strongly recommend this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judith E

    I’ve read Berlin’s short story, “My Pony”, multiple times because.....well you’ll just have to read it to discover her gritty and witty writing for yourself. She’s wacky and she teeters on the edge of propriety but her storytelling is never boring and it flips from howlingly funny to bittersweet memories. Starting one of her stories meant I would not get up again until it was finished, unable to break the flow and compelled to follow her flawed characters or bask in her luscious descriptions of I’ve read Berlin’s short story, “My Pony”, multiple times because.....well you’ll just have to read it to discover her gritty and witty writing for yourself. She’s wacky and she teeters on the edge of propriety but her storytelling is never boring and it flips from howlingly funny to bittersweet memories. Starting one of her stories meant I would not get up again until it was finished, unable to break the flow and compelled to follow her flawed characters or bask in her luscious descriptions of South America, Mexico, and the American southwest. I had not the slightest interest in horse racing, but out of the blue she has made me love a jockey and his horse and that final scene is imprinted on my brain. Every single one of these stories is masterful storytelling.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Least likely to say : raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favourite things. Tra la la, life is a blast. Fling open the windows and breathe in the scent of gladiolas and nightingales. Most likely to say : one pint of Jim Beam, two pints of Jim Beam, three pints of Jim Beam. Those were a few of my favourite things. But now they're gone. And it's five in the morning, and the stores aren't open yet. Least likely to say : raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favourite things. Tra la la, life is a blast. Fling open the windows and breathe in the scent of gladiolas and nightingales. Most likely to say : one pint of Jim Beam, two pints of Jim Beam, three pints of Jim Beam. Those were a few of my favourite things. But now they're gone. And it's five in the morning, and the stores aren't open yet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I have not read the whole book, just the title story "A Manual for Cleaning Women" available at this link : https://www.shortstoryproject.com/sto... It was delightful. On the surface, an entertaining look at the way a cleaning woman views her clients and some of the things which go on behind the scenes. Beneath that, her struggle after the death of the man she loves and her progress from suicidal to surviving. The author draws the reader in with her beautiful prose and only drops hints along the w I have not read the whole book, just the title story "A Manual for Cleaning Women" available at this link : https://www.shortstoryproject.com/sto... It was delightful. On the surface, an entertaining look at the way a cleaning woman views her clients and some of the things which go on behind the scenes. Beneath that, her struggle after the death of the man she loves and her progress from suicidal to surviving. The author draws the reader in with her beautiful prose and only drops hints along the way about the main character's problems. As the story progresses those hints gather together to make us aware of the real issues at play. The ending is open to interpretation but I felt that there was hope and a future. I loved it and will look out for the book so I can read more of her work.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Added Note: A vigorous discussion at the Breakfast Club prompted me to go and read this story a second time. I have upgraded my rating from a four to a five and I urge everyone to go and read this carefully. It might be the most brilliant modern short story out there. This is a review of the title story only. No entry on Goodreads for it as an individual story. I would like to read this entire collection. I love this kind of short story that seems to be about something simple, a cleaning lady and Added Note: A vigorous discussion at the Breakfast Club prompted me to go and read this story a second time. I have upgraded my rating from a four to a five and I urge everyone to go and read this carefully. It might be the most brilliant modern short story out there. This is a review of the title story only. No entry on Goodreads for it as an individual story. I would like to read this entire collection. I love this kind of short story that seems to be about something simple, a cleaning lady and the jobs she has, but that succeeds in revealing something basic about humanity. In a few lines, Lucia Berlin tells us everything essential to know about the families our cleaning lady cleans for, and with almost as much brevity, we learn what our cleaning lady herself is up against in her personal life. The story is revealed to us through our nameless cleaner while she rides her bus from job to job and observes the people on the bus, the city outside the bus, and the internal conversation she has with herself. Well worth the read. Read the Story Here

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Greenberg

    I am obviously missing something as, try as I might, I couldn't find the delight/wonder/magnificence in these stories that every other reviewer seems to have found. The hugely overlong introduction and foreword hugely distracted me as expectations were raised so high (for me) that the stories could not possibly deliver...Maybe I need to return to this at another time...but really not keen I am obviously missing something as, try as I might, I couldn't find the delight/wonder/magnificence in these stories that every other reviewer seems to have found. The hugely overlong introduction and foreword hugely distracted me as expectations were raised so high (for me) that the stories could not possibly deliver...Maybe I need to return to this at another time...but really not keen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Confession: I'm not the greatest fan of short stories - I prefer the density of a novel - but these tales are just wonderful. Perhaps they work because, as others have said, there are continuities, not always obvious, between the characters and stories themselves so that we experience some of the connections of a novel. In any case, Berlin's cool, clean, pellucid prose wins hands down with me over that fussy, 'poetic' writing awash with strained images and metaphors that seems to be on all the p Confession: I'm not the greatest fan of short stories - I prefer the density of a novel - but these tales are just wonderful. Perhaps they work because, as others have said, there are continuities, not always obvious, between the characters and stories themselves so that we experience some of the connections of a novel. In any case, Berlin's cool, clean, pellucid prose wins hands down with me over that fussy, 'poetic' writing awash with strained images and metaphors that seems to be on all the prize lists. Vivid and granular, these stories seem to exist naturally: there's no twist in the tale, no stunning revelation - and yet they reveal whole lives, whole characters in a handful of pages. Almost all Berlin's narrators are women - some are addicts and alcoholics but that doesn't reduce them to stereotypes; some are young women struggling with motherhood, with being daughters and wives; some are undocumented migrants; some work in hospitals, especially ERs. There's a sly humour in these pages, that jostles up against disillusion and disappointment, and moments of incandescent joy. Ultimately, these are life-enhancing stories even when the ending is downbeat. For me, it has been best to spread these stories out rather than gulping them down too fast. Consistently unpredictable, surprising in the way that people are surprising, these avoid the spectacular but are quietly, realistically dazzling.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This collection of short stories was recommended to me by Glen David Gold (Sunnyside, Carter Beats the Devil) on a recent trip to City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. It had been on my book list here for a while, but as soon as I got it, I ate it up in a way I usually don’t a short story collection. This collection has been drawn from several of her books published by the legendary Santa Rosa, California publisher Black Sparrow Press (and it’s always an event discovering another Black Sparro This collection of short stories was recommended to me by Glen David Gold (Sunnyside, Carter Beats the Devil) on a recent trip to City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. It had been on my book list here for a while, but as soon as I got it, I ate it up in a way I usually don’t a short story collection. This collection has been drawn from several of her books published by the legendary Santa Rosa, California publisher Black Sparrow Press (and it’s always an event discovering another Black Sparrow writer, even though the present volume is not theirs). Lucia (pron. Lu-cee-ah) Berlin’s fiction assembles itself around certain landscapes identifiable in the various stories—corresponding to times/professions/ conditions in a woman’s life. Mexico—both urban and coastal, is associated with a woman's coming to stay with her dying sister. Chile is privileged adolescent girl in with an important father. American mining towns-- a child with a dangerously dissatisfied mother. Oakland is nursing, or teaching, and alcoholism, El Paso is both scruffy and dangerous, but also genteel and dangerous, you are either a vulnerable child or a disgraced young woman. There are children, there are babies, there are Jazz musicians with drug problems. There is detox, there is jail. You end up in Boulder where there are no liquor stores or drunks. Not to get too biographical, the repetition of issues in stories does seem to indicate personal experience, these places have a strong pull for the author and she describes them beautifully. There is a certain fatality about these stories, a certain toughness and lack of the judgmental—such as the young girl in El Paso who pulls her curmudgeonly dentist-grandfather’s teeth for him in his filthy office. The specificity of these stories is dazzling. The beautiful layering. Also a claustrophobic snese that a life stakes out a territory with barbed wire, no way out. Maybe there’s always a tradeoff between stories that are wide-ranging and purposely imaginative, like Lydia Davis’s (who has written the foreward to this collection) and specific, working over certain squares of human existence again and again, like Berlin. I happen to love her subject matter. Here is the post-alcoholic narrator: “The only reason I have lived so long is that I let go of my past. Shut the door on grief or regret or remorse. If I let them in, just one self-indulgent crack, whap. The door will fling open gales of pain...” It isn’t until short stories are collected that you start to see the shape of an imagination. The obsessions, the repetition, the landscape of the writer’s psychology. I especially liked the story of the story about the privileged Chilean girl who is caught up with an American do-gooder teacher, and taken to look at the other side of the tracks, “Good and Bad”. And a series of letters, “Dear Conchi”, describing that same girl, now in America, at college in New Mexico, in a time of poodle skirts and chaperones, and her love affair with a young Mexican-American journalist. And one of the sister stories, “Fool to Cry” where the American sister, an alcoholic, comes back to Mexico City to care for her dying younger sister Sally—“Solitude is an Anglo-Saxon concept. In Mexico City, if you’re the only person on a bus and someone gets on they’ll not only come next to you, they will lean against you. When my sons were at home, if they came into my room there was usually a specific reason, Have you seen my socks? What’s for dinner?... But in Mexico, my sister’s daughter will come up three flights of stairs and through three doors just because I am there. To lean against me or say, Que honda?” Many have interesting turns. “Tiger Bites” begins as a story of two young women, cousins, in El Paso (the scene of the crime in so many of these stories), a character study of the protagonists ex-beauty queen cousin, a real hellion, and ends up in an abortion clinic on the Mexico side of the border—and the description of a mid-fifties shady abortion will stay with me all my life. My favorite story of all is the one that reminded me a lot for some reason of ‘The Night of the Iguana’, called “Toda Luna, Todo Ano” where a young recent widow steps aside from her vacation at a sort of Club Med resort—and the pointlessness of her life-- to go diving with some locals. “All down the beach, from the town of Zihuatanejo, was a faint dazzle and dance of tiny green light. Village girls placed them in their hair when they walked at dusk, strolling in groups or threes. Some of the girls scattered the insects througth their hair, others arranged them into emerald tiaras.” But as I write ‘my favorite story, ‘ another comes to mind, and another. The woman who likes working at the ER, intimate with the details of emergency. Or the woman in detox for the first time, the camaraderie with the old-hand drunks. Or the woman who has branded the hearts of more

  22. 5 out of 5

    Howard

    There are 44 stories in this collection, so it is to be expected that there would be a couple that would not rise to the overall quality of the collection. With one exception, none of them appeared in a major publication, and her collections were all published by minor publishers -- until this final one which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Although she had a devoted following, she never enjoyed a wide readership until this collection was published in 2015 -- eleven years after her de There are 44 stories in this collection, so it is to be expected that there would be a couple that would not rise to the overall quality of the collection. With one exception, none of them appeared in a major publication, and her collections were all published by minor publishers -- until this final one which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Although she had a devoted following, she never enjoyed a wide readership until this collection was published in 2015 -- eleven years after her death. Finally, she had a best seller. I have a virtual shelf that I call "Forgotten Writers Who Deserve to be Remembered." Lucia Berlin is the latest addition to that shelf. To read an outstanding review of A Manual for Cleaning Women, go to Teresa's review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Berlin writes as if she is telling the reader the stories of her life. The stories are quirky and messy and don't have easy conclusions. They feel true. She writes about everyday life; good times, hard times, mis-adventures and detours. The same characters keep showing up in these semi-autobiographical stories - Grandpa, Uncle John, her mother, her sister Sally, her husbands, her children - but the perspective keeps changing. You never know what to expect. The cumulative effect is --- expansive. Berlin writes as if she is telling the reader the stories of her life. The stories are quirky and messy and don't have easy conclusions. They feel true. She writes about everyday life; good times, hard times, mis-adventures and detours. The same characters keep showing up in these semi-autobiographical stories - Grandpa, Uncle John, her mother, her sister Sally, her husbands, her children - but the perspective keeps changing. You never know what to expect. The cumulative effect is --- expansive. I find myself looking at the world a little differently.

  24. 5 out of 5

    L.S. Popovich

    It was interesting reading these stories at the same time as the Collected Stories of Raymond Carver. There are some similarities, such as the slavery to alcohol, but Lucia Berlin's have more humor, in my opinion. There is a great deal of personality to these tales. They are on par with Joy Williams and Lorrie Moore, but with Berlin, there is a greater sense of autobiography to them, even if that is illusory. As in the case of Carver, what we read about her life matches what is contained in her It was interesting reading these stories at the same time as the Collected Stories of Raymond Carver. There are some similarities, such as the slavery to alcohol, but Lucia Berlin's have more humor, in my opinion. There is a great deal of personality to these tales. They are on par with Joy Williams and Lorrie Moore, but with Berlin, there is a greater sense of autobiography to them, even if that is illusory. As in the case of Carver, what we read about her life matches what is contained in her stories pretty closely. The 43 stories in this collection present a relentlessly entertaining, open-hearted, brash, and consistent narrative voice, blazing with life and wit. It discusses humility, outcast life, aimlessness, and the attempts at recapturing youth, defining a spurious motherhood, and dealing with incorrigible men, societal restraints, her physical handicap, and much more. There is some brutally, sex, a lot of drugs, and the struggle of downtrodden, abused, and dissatisfied women. Clever observations abound. The prose is slick and seductive, with minimalist details that hit the bull's eye. The collection opens with a couple tame stories - the titular one about the life of a cleaning woman, and two taking place in laundromats. The charm is palpable and addictive. She hits you pretty hard with the abortion story, "Tiger Bites," which I found devastating. The first 125 pages were extremely strong, but after the story of the Communist teacher, I noticed a wavering cloudiness to the storytelling, though I could've been getting too used to the exuberance. The enchantment fell away somewhat, only to return toward the end of the collection with renewed force. This is to say that the collection is not perfect, but it is still extremely good. It has a certain consistency, and all of her stories are unmistakably products of her difficult and crystallized inner experiences, bled onto the page by a talented, down-to-earth writer. Like life, the stories have ups and downs, and many repetitions. The intimacy of the stories lie in the fact that she holds nothing back, and you will really feel you have come to know the author from the inside out. Brief moments of clarity often overshadow the larger themes. It was mainly the battle with alcoholism I tired of after several iterations. The same thing happens with Carver, and it makes one posit that alcoholic writers can only write about alcoholic writers. The biographical details put many of the stories in perspective, and the forward and introduction were effusive, if a little uncritical. My favorite story was "Toda Luna, Todo Año" about a diving trip. I don't know why I liked it so much, only that it was mesmeric, memorable, beautiful, profound, and exquisite. In rare moments over the course of the collection, the author achieves singular brilliance, but it is hardly ever sustained for an entire story's length. The most brutal story was "Mijito," which will live forever in my memory. Her depictions of infants and children are heartbreaking, as are her portraits of homelessness, halfway houses, and prison. Several stories straddle Central American and American cultural divides, adding much cultural flavor. Overall, I have to rate Berlin higher than Carver. She has a very strong method, and a persuasive voice. These were extremely compelling. As I become more disenchanted with Carver and similar short story writers, I look forward to reading her other collections.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    [4.5 stars] Lucia Berlin wrote in relative obscurity during her life. It wasn't until this collection was edited together and published in 2015 that she really took off. I remember seeing this book everywhere that year and always meaning to read it. I'm a big fan of short story collections and autofiction, so this collection really nailed it for me. Many of Berlin's stories are clearly autobiographical. Some are narrated by a woman, 'Lu'. Some include a mother with four sons. While others combine [4.5 stars] Lucia Berlin wrote in relative obscurity during her life. It wasn't until this collection was edited together and published in 2015 that she really took off. I remember seeing this book everywhere that year and always meaning to read it. I'm a big fan of short story collections and autofiction, so this collection really nailed it for me. Many of Berlin's stories are clearly autobiographical. Some are narrated by a woman, 'Lu'. Some include a mother with four sons. While others combine these elements, plus draw on a character's childhood memories from living in mining towns in Alaska, houses in South America, or the wild deserts of New Mexico. Some characters suffer from alcoholism, others grew up with scoliosis. However much, or to what extent these characters reflect the author, they clearly stem in some capacity from her real life. That drawing from her real life while still allowing the characters to be fiction, to have their own narratives and take the lead in her stories, gives the collection a real weight. This authenticity spills from the page, and as you go through this quite long collection (43 stories total), familiar strands appear and begin to connect. The halo effect of this consistency in narrator, settings and themes in many of the stories creates a cohesive and immersive reading experience. But amazingly, despite the repetition of literary elements, the stories never feel redundant. Berline is an astute, observant and often witty writer. She can characterize a whole person in a short sentence or observation, unlike many skilled writers working today who go on for pages to set a scene. Within a few stories, I was hooked and convinced that I was reading the work of a master. It's hard to say if this particular collection and its sequence is exactly what Berlin would've wanted, as it was published posthumously. Nevertheless, it's excellently compiled and quite a chunky introduction to an author who should be read more widely and studied in school.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Violeta

    "The short story is the literature of the nomad" I just read this marvelous sentence in John Cheever's essay "Why I Write Short Stories" and Lucia Berlin came instantaneously to mind. There's no better way to describe her work and I feel compelled to add it here. This is one of the best collection of short stories I've ever read! If I were a writer I wish I could write exactly like she did. With all the undercurrent emotion that's flowing through her cool prose and no-frills sentences. Such a sham "The short story is the literature of the nomad" I just read this marvelous sentence in John Cheever's essay "Why I Write Short Stories" and Lucia Berlin came instantaneously to mind. There's no better way to describe her work and I feel compelled to add it here. This is one of the best collection of short stories I've ever read! If I were a writer I wish I could write exactly like she did. With all the undercurrent emotion that's flowing through her cool prose and no-frills sentences. Such a shame she didn't get the recognition she deserved while she lived; it would have made her life easier but not necessarily richer. Apparently she lived it to the full and used a lot of her experiences as material for these stories. That's why they are authentic and unapologetic and almost all found their way to my heart. She managed to make a narrative of her life, rendering it even worthier, in her own unique way. Who wouldn't have wished for such an accomplishment?! Και στα ελληνικά:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andy Marr

    DNF at 55%. There were some great stories in here, but some real stinkers, too. Still, I'm glad I read it, if only to remind myself that short stories aren't really my thing. DNF at 55%. There were some great stories in here, but some real stinkers, too. Still, I'm glad I read it, if only to remind myself that short stories aren't really my thing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lavinia

    I can't make you read these stories, but if I could, I would. This hidden (until recently) gem of American literature has been compared to Alice Munro, among other short story writers, and indeed, they share the same great voice, strong female characters disguised as domestic goddesses, and atmospheric stories, but Lucia Berlin's are also very vivid, quite dark and many times imbibed with alcohol, pain and substance abuse, which makes them way too real at times. Go read them. I can't make you read these stories, but if I could, I would. This hidden (until recently) gem of American literature has been compared to Alice Munro, among other short story writers, and indeed, they share the same great voice, strong female characters disguised as domestic goddesses, and atmospheric stories, but Lucia Berlin's are also very vivid, quite dark and many times imbibed with alcohol, pain and substance abuse, which makes them way too real at times. Go read them.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    My thoughts are only about the title story, "A Manual for Cleaning Women," which was inspired by author Lucia Berlin's life. Although the narrator was an educated woman, she had to take jobs cleaning houses to support her four children after her husband's death. She's strong, and makes the best of the situation by looking at the humor in it. She has a knack of getting along with the other maids at the bus stop, and the ladies whose houses she cleans. The story shows the "haves" and the "have not My thoughts are only about the title story, "A Manual for Cleaning Women," which was inspired by author Lucia Berlin's life. Although the narrator was an educated woman, she had to take jobs cleaning houses to support her four children after her husband's death. She's strong, and makes the best of the situation by looking at the humor in it. She has a knack of getting along with the other maids at the bus stop, and the ladies whose houses she cleans. The story shows the "haves" and the "have nots" living in very different worlds with different expectations. For example, being paid by check, instead of cash, requires her to take extra buses to the bank. The cleaning woman is observant as she waits for the bus. "Poor people wait a lot. Welfare, unemployment lines, laundromats, phone booths, emergency rooms, jails, etc." The narrator is still grieving her husband's death. When she's depressed, she steals a few sleeping pills, "saving up for a rainy day." But the reader gets the feeling that her ability to survive and her sense of humor will pull her through the heartbreaking times. This was my first Lucia Berlin story, but I'm looking forward to sampling more of her work. A link to the story: https://www.shortstoryproject.com/sto...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason Diamond

    There are so many stereotypical things I could say about this collection like the stories "popped" off the pages and "I couldn't put it down," and all of them would be true. I felt like she was right in front of me telling me her story, that's how real these stories felt. Funny and biting, at times gritty and dark. I absolutely loved this. There are so many stereotypical things I could say about this collection like the stories "popped" off the pages and "I couldn't put it down," and all of them would be true. I felt like she was right in front of me telling me her story, that's how real these stories felt. Funny and biting, at times gritty and dark. I absolutely loved this.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.