In 1981, John Martin published Lucia Berlin’s fourth collection of stories and remained her publisher through her last collection, published in 1993. With the recent publication of A Manual for Cleaning Women, and the sustained critical acclaim it has received, Berlin has finally been recognized as a master of the short story, allowing her work to reach the broad audience it deserves. These two collections capture distilled moments of crisis or epiphany, placing the protagonists in moments of stress or personal strain, and all told in an almost offhand, matter of fact voice. Weaving through the places she loved–Chile, Mexico, the Southwest, and California–each story delivers a poignant moment that lingers in the mind, not resolved, not decoded, but resonating, as questions of the human condition always do, in the heart of the reader.
Affecting . . . Compelling . . . Remarkably successful. Berlin places her memorable characters in gripping situations, plumbing their messed-up lives for pathos and allowing us to see deeply into their souls. –Publishers Weekly
Most of the twenty-three stories in this collection are very short and very simple. They are set in the places Berlin knows best: Chile, Mexico, the Desert Southwest, and California, and they have the casual, straightforward, immediate, and intimate style that distinguishes her work. They are told in a conversational voice and they move with a swift and often lyrical economy. They capture and communicate moments of grace and cast a lovely, lazy light that lasts. Berlin is one of our finest writers and here she is at the height of her powers. –Molly Giles, San Francisco Chronicle