[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.