May: Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin

Why should you read this book?

I was extremely excited to dive into Lucia Berlin’s work for the first time.  Although I have A Manual for Cleaning Women waiting to be read in my shelves, I decided to start with Evening in Paradise. After reading this book and some reviews on Goodreads, I am left wondering if I made a mistake.

Evening in Paradise is a posthumous collection of 22 stories that can be described as raw. They’re funny at times, but they’re always dark. From what I’ve read about Berlin’s life, I gather that many of these stories have an autobiographical dimension. Berlin was married three times (to a sculptor, to a jazz pianist and to a drug addict) and had four children before turning 30.

These tales revolve a lot around difficult and toxic relationships, loss, gender and take into consideration the political and social background of that time. Another aspect I noticed – and loved – in Evening in Paradise is Berlin’s worldliness. Her characters are itinerant.

So, as you can see, I was meant to love this book. But that didn’t happen. I found myself dragging and getting constantly distracted. I started by listening to the audiobook but the narrator’s voice didn’t work for me. So I just gave up on the audiobook and read the physical copy. My experience with this book improved and I was able to finish it but it didn’t leave a mark on me. I could never fully engage with this collection. I am super excited to read A Manual For Cleaning Women because it has been described as very engrossing! I think that’s what Evening in Paradise lacked.

I’d like to thank FSG for sending a review copy. You can buy the book here.

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Summary:

Ranging from Texas, to Chile, to New Mexico and New York, in Evening in Paradise Berlin writes about the good, the bad and everything in between: struggling young mothers, husbands who pack their bags and leave in the middle of the night, wives looking back at their first marriage from the distance of their second . . .

The publication of A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin’s dazzling collection of short stories, marked the rediscovery of a writer whose talent had gone unremarked by many. The incredible reaction to Lucia’s writing – her ability to capture the beauty and ugliness that coexist in everyday lives, the extraordinary honesty and magnetism with which she draws on her own history to breathe life into her characters – included calls for her contribution to American literature to be as celebrated as that of Raymond Carver.

Evening in Paradise is a careful selection from Lucia Berlin’s remaining stories – a jewel-box follow-up for her hungry fans.

Book Details:
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published on: November 2018
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Price: $26.99

 

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