[In Evening in Paradise, there] is little if any diminishment in quality or intensity [of Berlin's work] ... One thing that makes Berlin so valuable is her gift for evoking the sweetness and earnestness of young women who fall in love ... Berlin is so stealthily funny ... Berlin probably deserved a Pulitzer Prize; she definitely deserved, to borrow the name of a Waylon Jennings song, a Wurlitzer Prize, for all the coins she drops into our mental jukeboxes. She has an instinctive access to the ways music can both provoke and fortify ... During her lifetime she was not published by that major house, or any other. She is 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 ... 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.
The stories in Evening in Paradise have that familiar Berlin affect—the clipped prose, the startling details, the signal one-liners or repeated words that burrow into you. Berlin’s prose reads like poetry and feels like memory. Fraught moments are telescoped into spare, suggestive exchanges that directly appeal to the senses ... Berlin’s wry sense of humor renders her economical language bracing ... Berlin’s work asks us to reconsider the many ways a life can be thought of, remembered, reimagined, reseen.
For all the appropriateness of the comparison to writers like [Raymond] Carver, whether it's her description of the captivating beauty of the Sandia Mountains...or some other striking setting, Berlin's evocative prose brings an energy to her stories that's often a welcome counterpoint to the foreground narrative ... Berlin also possesses a gift for humor that helps soften the aridity of her characters' lives. That wit flashes ... bawdy shared recollections of disappointment and ennui are the essence of life in Berlin country.
It seems likely that Evening in Paradise, the beautiful second anthology of Berlin's stories, will win over just as many readers as its predecessor. Just like A Manual for Cleaning Women, Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes. It's a work of remembrance of the kinds of people who might otherwise be forgotten ... As was the case with A Manual for Cleaning Women, there's not a single story in Evening in Paradise that's less than beautiful. Berlin had a gift for language, and never limited herself to one style — the stories in her collection are alternately comic and tragic, with the only thing in common being Berlin's obvious love for her characters, even the ones who aren't conventionally likable ... Evening in Paradise proves that Berlin's generous, beautiful spirit will endure in the literary world for decades to come.
To read Evening in Paradise, however, feels like living through the periods yourself. Like Chekhov, Berlin was a beautiful framer of stories. She knows how to draw an incident around a place and period ... Beat by beat, these stories etch a circle around a time and then fill up the inside with the sensation of lived experience, of conscious thought — loves and regrets ... The stories in Evening in Paradise frequently tilt on this ever-present pivot between what is hidden and obvious, and how in dramatic situations the two things trade places back and forth ... Reading Berlin is like watching [a] building burn and realizing it is our lives.
These stories showed Berlin’s extraordinary talent for landing in the middle of a life or a place and giving the reader an immediate sense of being there. Her writing is vivid, the pictures she makes are unforgettable. Evening in Paradise is a selection of her remaining stories, occasionally a touch scrappy, but mostly wonderful.
Evening in Paradise is all the evidence anyone should need that Lucia Berlin is one of the best short story writers of her time. Across the board, Berlin’s short fiction holds an emotional timbre that is difficult to match. Her writing renders the exhaustive efforts of a day’s work commonplace and extraordinary, vibrant and unexpurgated, elated and forlorn. It’s the genuine paradise and tragedies of the everyday, unfiltered and wonderful.
Anyone worried that Evening in Paradise might somehow be inferior to Manual is in for a pleasant surprise. Containing about half the number of tales — 22 in all — this new collection of stories showcases the same remarkable skill and pathos that Berlin fans have long cherished. Berlin’s alluring prose consistently sets the reader up for unexpected and often harrowing shifts in action ... Evening in Paradise provides further proof of Berlin’s remarkable ability to home in on the extraordinary within the ordinary. It shows her to be a simultaneously uncompromising and empathic observer of life.
Evening in Paradise, as good as it is, feels vaguer at the edges than A Manual for Cleaning Women, which clapped closed. It suffers from a relative lack of hospital stories, which often emerge as her best, where her ever present sensuality inverts into an almost unbearable physical compassion. There’s nothing in this collection like ‘My Jockey’, but then what are we, kings? How often does a ‘My Jockey’ come along? Is there any limit to our entitlement?
It is hard to read Lucia Berlin’s Evening in Paradise: More Stories, which is every bit as generous and perceptive as A Manual for Cleaning Women, and not feel some sense of frustration or exasperation at the fact that Berlin was not more widely read during her lifetime. Considered together, the two collections leave little doubt she is one of the greatest American short story writers of the 20th century ... Paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, Berlin’s prose is vivid and lush—a rich and tactile landscape that often overwhelms the senses while rarely feeling overwrought or florid (and when it does, it’s ironic). But perhaps above all, she is a master of sound and rhythm.
... why weren’t these 22 stories selected for [A Manual for Cleaning Women]? The answer, equally inevitably, is that they’re not as strong. There’s nothing here as harrowing, for example, as 'Unmanageable' ... or as piercingly humane as the earlier book’s title story. Yet, all the same, there’s still plenty in Evening in Paradise to conjure the original thrill of reading Berlin.
Here is another collection of leap-off-the-page, life-enhancing stories by the wonderful American writer Lucia Berlin ... Berlin’s frankness and humour apart, it is the power of observation that blows one’s mind ... One of the things she does is say the unsayable... She is also brilliant on the underside of glamour ... It is this combination of warmth and extremity that shines out in every word Lucia Berlin writes.
... raw, elliptical, devilishly funny ... This latest collection is by no means the dross left over from her last book, though some of the one-page flash fictions are more exercises in voice than immersive narratives. Characters, settings and themes recur but in a startling variety of registers ... Throughout these tales, cruelty is intertwined with compassion.
Dozens of passages offer up similarly vivid images of sky, weather, birds and flowers. [Berlin] does humans well, too, with a sharp eye for social, economic and regional differences ... Some of the 22 stories here are wonderful; others nothing more than a collage of shimmering images. All feature her distinctive voice, which operates in the space between free verse and prose.
...another, but no less satisfying, group of stories ... these 22 stories don't depart markedly, either thematically or stylistically, from those collected in the earlier volume. They also share with their predecessors a gaggle of characters, sketched swiftly but thoroughly and with wicked honesty, noteworthy for their failure to make much headway in their lives, while possessing sufficient self-awareness to alert them to the tragedy of their fate ... Berlin prefers character to plot, but on the handful of occasions when she concentrates simply on telling a good story, she displays the versatility of her talent ... Berlin also possesses a gift for humor that helps soften the aridity of her characters' lives.
The two recent volumes collecting her work... demonstrate that she was a true master of the short story ... In terms of skill and theme, her work is in the category of Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, and Marilynne Robinson, with Berlin charting a marginal, postwar side of America that is not commonly seen in our literature ... Perhaps most impressive is Berlin’s knack for capturing the characteristic feel of each era of life: whether the child’s naïve eagerness or the grown woman’s languid contemplation, she is a writer who does it all ... [Berlin] possesses the indispensable talent of effortlessly zeroing in on what is timeless and elemental in our lives. Berlin is a poet of those moments destined to dwell eternally in our memories with an undiminished vividness and magnitude, no matter how often we examine them as we age.
Are we scraping the bottom of the barrel, reading less impressive stories and oddments the author had not intended for publication? The answer is no — with a tiny bit of well, maybe. Most of the stories in the new collection are as stellar as those in [A Manual for Cleaning Women, though it trails off a bit at the end.
Twenty-two more stories from an author who died in 2004 and made it big in 2015 ... Blessedly, a second volume...is in no way second rate but rather features more seductive, sparkling autofiction with narrators whose names echo the author's in settings and situations that come from her [the author's] roller-coaster biography (which is summarized in an appendix) ... No dead author is more alive on the page than Berlin: funny, dark, and so in love with the world.
This wonderful posthumous collection ... is significant partly because it reveals the centrality of homesickness and geography to Berlin’s work ... Berlin’s writing achieves a dreamy, delightful effect as it provides a look back through time. This collection should further bolster Berlin’s reputation as one of the strongest short story writers of the 20th century.