‘Evening in Paradise’: more stories by Lucia Berlin
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