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A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected…

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories (2015)

by Lucia Berlin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (18)  Spanish (4)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  All (24)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I am not usually a fan of short stories, but Lucia Berlin's prose evokes a raw intimacy that leaves the reader satisfied, even after just a few pages. Highly recommended. ( )
  JGoto | Aug 9, 2017 |
Love these stories - so real, so well-crafted. Haven't finished the book, but will reread. Grateful to Eugenia for her award-winning translation into Spanish, and all the acclaim it received convincing me to read it. ( )
  KymmAC | Jul 24, 2017 |
It's too bad Lucia Berlin had to wait for several years after her death to see her first collection of short stories published. The stories are gems of desolation, disconnection, and passion. Berlin's voice is singular in a way like, and unlike, that of writer Raymond Carver. ( )
  Smartjanitor | Jun 12, 2017 |
A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN is a fascinating collection of short stories that were compiled posthumously by Stephen Emerson. What is particularly fascinating about them is that, although the individual stories were published in various places during her lifetime, when put together they feel linked. It's almost as if there is a larger story that the author was trying to tell - the story of her life. The editor graciously includes background information on Berlin, and after reading it (which I would recommend doing AFTER finishing the collection) the reader can clearly see how the characters in the stories were inspired by her own life experiences.

Throughout the 43 stories, there are characters who suffer with drug/alcohol addiction, dysfunctional and destructive families, terminal illnesses, sibling reconciliations, failed marriages, work in the medical field, mental illness, child abuse, teaching, and so many more topics that are covered - many of which the author experienced firsthand. Most of the stories are set in Chile, Texas, Mexico, and California - all places that Berlin lived throughout her life. By the end of the book, it feels as though you know her deeply, not from a biographical perspective, but rather from an emotional and metaphysical one.

Each of the stories in A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN is powerful in the raw emotion that is presented. You truly feel connected to the characters, even in a work that is only a few pages long. To know that the stories were directly informed by Lucia Berlin's own life experiences only adds to the richness and depth of the book. ( )
  BooksForYears | May 8, 2017 |
I hadn't heard of Lucia Berlin before picking up this book but soon became engrossed in this collection of vivid, moving and surprising short stories. The author was born in Alaska in 1936 and lived in Chile, New Mexico, California and Colorado, places in which many of her stories are set. A Manual for Cleaning Women is a selection of stories published between the 1970s and 1990s. Although she was appreciated and celebrated by readers during her lifetime, it seems that this posthumous collection has brought her to a wider audience and greater acclaim.

I really liked this book and read most of the stories over a few days. Because some of the same settings, characters and themes appear repeatedly in the stories, I found I read the book as quickly as a novel, while still appreciating the impact of each story on its own. Set mainly in Chile, Mexico and the USA, the stories mix realistic detail with the unexpected, and certainly took me, as a reader with no experiences of those places, into a different world.

Some of the stories look back to unconventional and sometimes difficult childhoods and adolescence (Stars and Saints). Others are set in adult life, veering from the glamorous and adventurous to the precarious or lonely, or encompassing all those within the same story. Some describe the experience of alcoholism in an ironic and self-aware way (Her First Detox, 502). Often the stories explore the protagonists’ experiences at work, teaching, nursing and cleaning, in a witty and absorbing style (Emergency Room Notebook, 1977, El Tim).

One of my favourite stories is Toda Luna, Toda Ano, about a woman who travels to Mexico after her husband dies and joins a group of locals who teach her to dive. I also thought Here It Is Saturday, a story about a creative writing class in prison, was brilliant, for its dialogue, wit and emotional impact. Good and Bad, a story about a wealthy teenage girl and her Communist teacher, was also memorable. A few of the stories are very sad, especially those about grief, and the author doesn't go for the sentimental or easy resolution. At other moments she somehow captures happiness and vitality in a story's vivid details.

I'd describe the writing style as plain but evocative. The stories are often written in a first-person and colloquial narrative that is intimate and amusing. I have read that Lucia Berlin has been compared to Jean Rhys and Raymond Carver. I can see the truth in both of these comparisons but also think her way of looking at the world is very original. I would highly recommend this anthology.
  papercat | Jan 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lucia Berlinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davis, LydiaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emerson, StephenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torrescasana, AlbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374202397, Hardcover)

Stories from a lost American classic "in the same arena as Alice Munro" (Lydia Davis)

"In the field of short fiction, Lucia Berlin is one of America's best kept secrets. That's it. Flat out. No mitigating conditions." —Paul Metcalf

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday—uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City.
     The women of Berlin's stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real. They are hitchhikers, hard workers, bad Christians. With the wit of Lorrie Moore and the grit of Raymond Carver, they navigate a world of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators. They laugh, they mourn, they drink. Berlin, a highly influential writer despite having published little in her lifetime, conjures these women from California, Mexico, and beyond. Lovers of the short story will not want to miss this remarkable collection from a master of the form.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:11 -0400)

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