RaveThe AtlanticWelcome Home ... reveal[s] how powerfully Berlin’s literary imagination was shaped by the twin beliefs...that stories can keep you company—keep you sane—during periods of deep loneliness, and that stories improve when they’re fractured and opened up for intervention ... Her stories contain the observations and concerns of impermissible experience: what heroin dealers looked and spoke like in Juárez in the ’60s; how a woman of that era might change husbands as nimbly as changing cabs; what the cleaning lady thinks about as she gets blood off a bedroom wall after a murder ... These are dangerous subjects for women, even now. It’s no accident that many critics looking for Berlin’s peers compare her primarily to male authors (Hemingway, Raymond Carver), though the comparisons rarely do justice to her humor or her quirky, lavish prose style. Welcome Home also gives a sense of the joyousness of her personality, which is as urgently expressed in all her writing as loneliness and desperation are. Her writing loves the world, lingers over details of touch and smell ... precision is characteristic of Berlin, whose descriptions are usually both peculiar and funny.
RaveThe AtlanticIt’s no accident that many critics looking for Berlin’s peers compare her primarily to male authors (Hemingway, Raymond Carver), though the comparisons rarely do justice to her humor or her quirky, lavish prose style ... Evening in Paradise is even more fragmented than its predecessor [A Manual for Cleaning Women]: Several of the pieces—including the title story—might most truthfully be described as sketches for stories, or brilliantly drawn scenes from a larger, coherent work that doesn’t exist. Others have the sweep and inner architecture of perfect stand-alones ... These stories have the austerity of a steely mental exercise, Berlin scrutinizing herself through the kind or not-so-kind eyes of others, but they also offer reassurance. The character may feel alone, but the story refutes her fear: Someone is seeing her. More often than not, the narration expresses what its isolated female protagonist cannot ... Much of the world that Berlin describes is harrowing for women, and yet her stories...cheerfully refuse to erase either the women or the brutality that deranges them ... Berlin’s writing has the advantage of approaching these themes from a time less exhausting than the present, and she also has a gaze tender and precise enough to make her characters feel like people and not archetypes or sermons in disguise.