A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

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Reviewed by Jill Sexton, Head of Information Technology, NCSU Libraries

Sometimes you discover an author who has been writing for many years, but you don’t know, and it makes you wonder: how is it possible that I’ve never encountered this extraordinary voice?  This collection of stories by the late Lucia Berlin, published in 2015, was one of those books for me. Some of these stories literally took my breath away-I’d have to shut the book and sit with it for a while before moving on. Berlin’s writing is spare, economical, sharply observant, hilarious--also dark, harrowing, and real.  Loosely autobiographical, the stories trace the life of a brilliant narrator who struggles with alcoholism and abusive relationships, yet retains her humor and her humanity. Her writing draws you in with its dry wit, disarms you with its humor, then compels you to gaze on something you probably didn’t want to see--and yet you can’t turn away.