Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

When I was in college, I wrote a collection of short stories. They likely weren't very good (and no one read them beyond my advisor, my first reader, and potentially my parents). But they were very much of the write what you know variety and I mined experiences from my own life and from my mother and grandmother's lives to come up with the basis for the stories. Lucia Berlin also uses her own life and experiences in creating the sort stories that form this collection. Although hers are chock full of autobiographical elements, as were mine, I cannot claim to have the facility with language or sophistication of craft that she does but I hope that mine have a sliver more hope and happiness in them than hers contain.

This is a collection of 43 stories, all populated with broken characters. Many are clearly half-autobiographical and several are about the same recurring characters. Even those that are not obviously linked in this way are very similar in theme and tone. The stories are raw, dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, cancer, death, despair, and loneliness.  Berlin doesn't write happy. She writes about the disadvantaged, the poor, the overworked, and the floundering. The stories are straightforward and clearly personal. Having so many under one cover highlights the repetition though. They are well written but perhaps a more careful curation would have prevented the fatigue that set in as I pushed further into the book. Short story readers will likely appreciate these as the neglected gems that so many reviewers have labelled them, I just reached a saturation point before I finished (and I did in fact finish).

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts