‘Evocative . . . poignant . . . acute and funny’ Observer
‘The Revival of the Great Lucia Berlin Continues Apace’ New York Times
Best known for her short fiction, it was upon publication of A Manual for Cleaning Women in 2015 that Lucia Berlin’s status as a great American writer was widely celebrated. To populate her stories – the places, relationships, the sentiments – Berlin often drew on her own rich, itinerant life.
Before Berlin died, she was working on a book of previously unpublished autobiographical sketches called Welcome Home. The work consisted of more than twenty chapters that started in 1936 in Alaska and ended (prematurely) in 1966 in southern Mexico. In our publication of Welcome Home, her son Jeff Berlin is filling in the gaps with photos and letters from her eventful, romantic, and tragic life.
From Alaska to Argentina, Kentucky to Mexico, New York City to Chile, Berlin’s world was wide. And the writing here is, as we’ve come to expect, dazzling. She describes the places she lived and the people she knew with all the style and wit and heart and humour that readers fell in love with in her stories.
Berlin is also known as a visionary who anticipated the merging of autobiography and fiction that's so common right now. You can see just how much she merged her life and her fiction in the unfinished memoir Welcome Home . . . She's so mordant here, and so observational, and there are so many gorgeous details that must have been painstakingly sifted out of a lifetime of experiences. * Lit Hub * Finding all the connections to the stories in the memoir is fun. The letters, the earliest written at age 11 and most in the author's mid-to-late 20s, offer some of that same pleasure but more powerfully underline the fact that the voice that seems so off-the-cuff and natural in the stories is something she consciously created; the version of her persona and her life that got into the stories is clarified and curated. * Newsday * There's a delicious pleasure in tracing the nonfictional origins of Berlin's fictions. * Los Angeles Times * A collection of autobiographical pieces that reflect Berlin's singularly peripatetic life . . . As is the case with her fiction, Berlin's pieces here are as faceted as the brightest diamond, but rather than blind you, they just encourage you to examine them even more closely, so you get lost in their depths. * NYLON * Berlin's nonfiction makes apparent her genius for taking personal, idiosyncratic scenes from her memory and crafting them into fiction that speaks to us all. We come to understand through Welcome Home that Berlin's fiction has catalyzed her memories into pointed, surprising short stories. Berlin converts memory into fiction, using fiction to revisit and revise memory. * The Washington Post * This never-before-published memoir and new collection are cause for jubilation. In part because they make it clear Berlin's gifts were vast, complex, and full of tonal warmths . . . Like Chekhov, Berlin was a beautiful framer of stories. * Boston Globe * The more extended memories offered in Welcome Home delight and illuminate . . . Her impressions of her childhood in particular have the vividness of cherished old magazines . . . Lifting the language throughout is an elegant shrug of fatalism, a conviction that we are born exactly what we are, and what we are going to be. -- Patricia Lockwood * London Review of Books * [Berlin] writes candidly about what she enjoyed and endured; when her narrative peters out in mid-sentence, she leaves her reader wanting more . . . When the words flowed, Berlin managed to perform small miracles with them. Whether describing lucky breaks or hard knocks, her prose is intense and intimate, at once disconcerting and entrancing. * Economist * [In Welcome Home,] Berlin's self-reflective and candid voice comes roaring through. * Publishers Weekly (starred review) * Tantalizing glimpses into the life of a recently-discovered writer . . . Berlin describes each home [where she lived] in exquisite, imagistic language . . . [Welcome Home is] an excellent start to understanding a writer and her work. * Kirkus reviews * An essential companion to her fiction . . . for all the upheaval they depict, the vignettes in Welcome Home are never depressing. They have too many of the appealing and funny qualities of her stories for that, from eye-catching description . . . to a knack for the absurd. -- John Self * Irish Times * Welcome Home gives a sense of the joyousness of [Berlin's] 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. * Atlantic * Welcome Home comes sadly in fragments only . . . But everything that elevates her short fiction to the peaks of greatness is evident too in the pages documenting her peripatetic early life and her many trials. Her sentences have a smokiness and sad glamour to them; she evokes the many places of her life so memorably, so bluesily. -- Kevin Barry * Irish Times * A jigsaw-puzzle portrait of a long-neglected literary legend, baring the autobiographical material that filtered so forcefully into her fiction. The mystery of her fiction is not, it turns out, in the source of its inspiration. It is in how Berlin transformed her life into art that is as vital as the thing itself. * Vogue * A beauty inside and out. -- Chris Power, author of Mothers
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