A Manual for Cleaning Women

Lucia Berlin  |  Fiction

When I was in graduate school at the University of Utah, situated at the edge of Salt Lake City and in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, I was a runner.   Some days, when there was too much snow on the ground, I would run around the elevated track in the gym at the U.  Yes, I accomplished my exercise, but it wasn't like running four or five miles among the foothills or up and down the streets with beautiful old homes and neighborhoods that told a story.  Short stories make me feel like running the track; I am not getting anywhere.

I made it through about 150 pages; quite a few of the 43 stories in this book, until I just became too tired of Berlin’s style, the story with the abrupt end.  She weaves together some interesting tidbits, Studs-Terkel-like, mixes in some humor, and then puts a surprise at the end.  The rhythm of her writing began to put me to sleep. It was the same formula in every story.  

During my process of trying to “like" Berlin's book, I researched why some of us are challenged by short stories. I found this delightful article!  I have read and enjoyed two of the recommended short story complications:  the one by Alice Munro, and the short stories of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House.