The Weekend Reading List: A Manual for Cleaning Women

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

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The Stats:

  • Publication Date: August 18, 2015
  • Short stories, autobiographical, slice of life,
  • 3.8/5
  • Warnings: Some of these stories are not happy. You’ve been warned.

From Amazon:

“A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians.

Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they’d ever overlooked her in the first place.”

Zo’s Review:

First off, thanks to my co-worker and her book club for recommending this book to me and my book club.

So other than the minimalistic book cover in a super calming tangerine color, the main reason why I decided to read this book was because it was a collection of short stories. Recently getting through a full book has been somewhat difficult for me with recent demands in my personal life so reading a collection of short stories has been perfect for me.

Each of Berlin’s short stories has elements from her real life that not only ground and connect each story to the others – though they can be read separately and on their own – but hold real emotional experiences. There were definitely some stories that made me chuckle despite an underlining layer of sadness to them. The ability Berlin had to manipulate and intertwine complex emotions in her words and make a scene that at first seems lighthearted into one that also combines the hardships of a narrator who is always on the outside looking in. My favorite story includes the narrator’s memory of working at her grandfather’s dental office and helping him remove his teeth. It was a story that was both darkly humorous and somewhat twisted as well with its humanness.

Overall, I really liked Manual for Cleaning Women and its glimpse into the life of its author, Lucia Berlin. I believe the book is a great read for anyone in any stage of their life. Though the book is a collection of short stories, each story is able to carry its own weight and leaves the reader with much to think over and reflect on.

 

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