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Publisher's Summary

"I have always had faith that the best writers will rise to the top, like cream, sooner or later, and will become exactly as well-known as they should be - their work talked about, quoted, taught, performed, filmed, set to music, anthologized. Perhaps, with the present collection, Lucia Berlin will begin to gain the attention she deserves." - Lydia Davis, from the foreword

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers, and bad Christians.

Listeners will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.

©2015 Lucia Berlin (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Stephanie
  • Beautiful Groveland, MA, United States
  • 07-04-16

A whole book of gritty true-life stories turned out to be a little too much

I stopped listening after one last story about some poor dogs and a porcupine and then a sledgehammer. The very long and glowing forward also grew tiring. I don't like to write negative reviews, and tbh the narrators did a pretty good job mostly, but I guess I can only take so much life-story telling from this point of view. I see enough of society's underbelly where I work, I don't need it on my down time, too.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Exquisite writing, lopsided performances

One of the narrators, whoever the woman is who reads "Grief" and others, has a voice not unlike a robot reading "talk to text." Her inflections are so alien and odd, I can barely stand to listen to her. If I speed it up to 1.25 it is slightly more bearable, but no less bizarre. The woman who reads "A manual for cleaning women" and others, does a rich, textured, feeling and gravelly performance. I find the disparity in these two voices jarring and ultimately I am just going to buy the book so that I can read it to myself. That being said, Berlin's writing is exquisite- she rights of harsh, beautiful, rough, dirty, gorgeous, sad, depressing, surreal situations and people- my heart feels like it is being torn open from beauty and grief listening to this work. I am so grateful that her work has come to me, and so sad I didn't find it sooner, that most of us didn't find it until after she was dead. Audible, seriously, consider re-recording this volume of stories, nixing the performances of the robot lady, who generally reads anything written in the third person.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The lives, struggles and small, precious victories of women you'll probably never know

These short vignettes of the daily routine, crises, and terrible dilemmas facing working women and their families are narrated beautifully. I listen exclusively to short stories an hour or so before bed, and this collection is my mainstay. I have never lived these lives, which are pulled mostly from the lower echelon of American society. I promise you will see our country differently through this author's skillful narrative and characters whom you feel you are living with in just the first few words.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful!

Beautiful writing and fascinating heartfelt stories. I would have preferred a few seconds more between the stories instead of Audilble's unfortunate habit of running stories and chapters together. The readers were fabulous.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

The book is very difficult to follow.

I would have enjoyed it more if the author stuck to one story line. The performance was well done for audio, but I enjoy relaxing and enjoying audible books...without the need to unravel and figure out where the story starts and ends.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Hard to get through

What did you like best about A Manual for Cleaning Women? What did you like least?

I think this would have been much more enjoyable reading instead of listening. The stories jump around too much and it's hard to tell if some of the short stories are connected. I like the way it was written, but again it would have been much more suiting to read it through, because I believe it takes patience, undivided attention and dedication to enjoy it as an audio book. It's more of a heady book.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something a little more spicy, lively and inspiring.

Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

No, I found the main women a little monotonous. Her performance fell flat and didn't give good opportunity for funny or dramatic material.

Did A Manual for Cleaning Women inspire you to do anything?

Eh...not especially inspiring. Some really nice keepsake sayings and thoughts here and there, but not exceptionally provocative.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Short stories that work as a whole!

The writings clang together like pots you are putting away. You see scenes from a fascinating person's life. In time you begin to know her, her kids, her fun, her sorrows. It is a good read, and I usually don't like short stories because you leave the characters too quickly....not so with this writing. It is wonderful!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

gloriously written

just marvelous I am in awe of her honesty and ability to create and maintain a mood she is a masterful storyteller!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kennedy
  • SAN JOSE, CA, United States
  • 04-10-17

Reads Like Nonfiction

Really wonderful, gritty, personal fiction that reads like nonfiction. I highly recommend this for MFA Creative Writing programs where this type of short story collection is highly emulatable.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A review from El Paso, TX

I stumble upon Lucia Berlin, not knowing her ties with Southwest and it has been a pleasure. She captured the joys and pathos of our region as only somebody who has felt it.
Read her work, you will find a calm resignation about what it is to live.