Lucia Berlin is the greatest short story writer you've never read. Her writing style is conversational and real, yet poetic at the same time. Her protagonists are mostly working-class women who are unlucky in life, and Berlin writes about them with great insight, compassion, and, occasionally, humor. What left me totally gobsmacked, though, was Ms. Berlin's way with language. I found myself rereading sentences just to try and figure out how she managed to so-nimbly dance with her words. Lucia Berlin's stories sit easily with the work of Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, and John Cheever. Recommended By Sandy M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
One of The New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2015
"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." — Lydia Davis
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.
"A writer's writer whose posthumous, highly semiautobiographical collection will catapult her into a household name. Women who behave badly oscillate beautifully between funny ha-ha and funny-sad in these perfectly clipped, nuanced stories." Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
"Lucia Berlin has long been overlooked as one of America's best short story writers, and it only takes readers the first couple of pages to recognize that....Reminiscent of Raymond Carver with a dash of survivor's humor, which makes even the bleakest tales thoroughly enjoyable." Joseph Errico, Nylon
"[Lucia Berlin] may just be the best writer you've never heard of...Imagine a less urban Grace Paley, with a similar talent for turning the net of resentments and affections among family members into stories that carry more weight than their casual, conversational tone might initially suggest...Berlin's offbeat humor, get-on-with-it realism, and ability to layer details that echo across stories and decades give her book a tremendous staying power...[A Manual for Cleaning Women] goes a long way toward putting Berlin, who died in 2004, back in the public eye." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Marvelous...Berlin's beautiful, rangy prose builds into unpredictable shapes that speak of the sprawling rural and urban western and South American landscapes that fueled her imagination...Full of humor and tenderness and emphatic grace...Those not lucky enough to have yet encountered the writing of Lucia Berlin are in for some high-grade pleasure when they make first contact." Laird Hunt, The Washington Post
"In A Manual for Cleaning Women we witness the emergence of an important American writer, one who was mostly overlooked in her time. Ms. Berlin's stories make you marvel at the contingencies of our existence. She is the real deal. Her stories swoop low over towns and moods and minds." Dwight Garner, The New York Times
About the Author
Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Her stories are inspired by her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she later held to support her writing and her four sons. Sober and writing steadily by the 1990s, she took a visiting writer's post at the University of Colorado Boulder in 1994 and was soon promoted to associate professor. In 2001, in failing health, she moved to Southern California to be near her sons. She died in 2004 in Marina del Rey.