“A Manual for Cleaning Women”
Author: Lucia Berlin
Genre: Short-Story / Literary Fiction
Page Count: 403
Lucia Berlin masterfully weaves tales of blue-collar struggle in a way that illuminates the beautiful and often brutal aspects of life that we too often shy away from.
This collection of stories from a master of the craft is brimming with wit, violence, and love that is palpable in every carefully constructed sentence and paragraph and story. We are guided along as Berlin takes us from the beautiful beaches of Mexico to the American Southwest, from laundromats to illegal abortion clinics. Readers are captivated by her ability to identify and reveal the grace and poise that is so often embedded in some of life’s most arduous trials and tribulations.
Along the way, she constructs stories that are both fiction and, somehow, uniquely real in their own way; like an overheard story in our own lives—they’re entirely believable—but we can never quite be sure that they really happened. Out of that sentiment, a sense of awe is born. This nagging feeling that never truly leaves you, even when you read the final page and close the cover. Berlin’s collection roots through your heart, looking behind every corner, and expertly plucks at the heartstrings that make us human.
Whether it’s the relationship between two sisters or star-crossed lovers, Berlin takes an unflinching look at the dysfunctional nature of the connections that bring us together and sometimes push us apart. This collection of stories from Lucia Berlin has something for everyone: alcoholism, upper-class Chilean hotels, and terminal illnesses—“A Manual for Cleaning Women” covers it all.
Berlin dazzles posthumously and cements herself as one of the most interesting and talented short story authors of our time—or any time for that matter.