‘Evening in Par­adise’: more sto­ries by Lu­cia Ber­lin

The Korea Times - - BOOKS - (AP)

In 2015, the post­hu­mous pub­li­ca­tion of the short story col­lec­tion “A Man­ual for Clean­ing Women” made its author Lu­cia Ber­lin a house­hold name, at least in lit­er­ary house­holds.

Now her pub­lisher has brought out a new col­lec­tion, “Evening in Par­adise,” along with an evoca­tive mem­oir, “Wel­come Home,” that Ber­lin was work­ing on when she died in 2004 at age 68.

The sto­ries, best de­scribed as au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal fic­tion, fea­ture an in­ter­change­able cast of char­ac­ters who are stand-ins for Ber­lin and her en­tourage of friends, fam­ily and lovers.

The daugh­ter of a min­ing en­gi­neer, Ber­lin lived a peri­patetic life, grow­ing up in West­ern min­ing towns and spend­ing her teenage years in San­ti­ago, Chile. The mem­oir lists al­most three dozen houses she called home, one of which she burned down.

One of the best sto­ries, “An­dado,” fo­cuses on a 14-year-old girl who is sex­u­ally as­saulted by one of her fa­ther’s busi­ness as­so­ci­ates in Chile.

When the story opens, she and her girl­friends are typ­i­cal teenagers, prac­tic­ing “kiss­ing by kiss­ing the medicine cab­i­net. ... Where did noses go? That’s how much they knew about love.”

In real life Ber­lin was mar­ried three times (twice to jazz mu­si­cians), strug­gled with al­co­holism and worked a va­ri­ety of low-end jobs to raise her four sons, mostly by her­self.

Th­ese cir­cum­stances are re­flected in many of the sto­ries, in which var­i­ously named fe­male pro­tag­o­nists rise above their pre­car­i­ous cir­cum­stances be­cause of their grit, hu­mor, in­tel­li­gence and ten­der feel­ings — not just for their lovers and chil­dren but for the world it­self.

“Evening in Par­adise: More Sto­ries” by Lu­cia Ber­lin

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