Review by Kate Jones
The stories here put me in mind of the style of Grace Paley, in the matter of fact way they are written and the way they lay bare the colourful and often sad characters around them. Both writers clearly mined their own lives and neighbourhoods for the people and themes which interested them.
The stories range from Texas to Chile, New Mexico to New York, populated by characters such as junkies, struggling young mothers, and husbands who leave.
There is some beautiful prose in such stories as ‘Andado: A Gothic Romance’, such as the opening paragraph, lyrically describing the mimosa or acacia tree, ‘the softness of the fallen yellow blossoms that carpeted the courtyards,’ juxtaposed against a group of young school girls who ‘filled pens from inkwells on each desk and the nibs made rasping sleepy scratches in their copybooks.’ There is also humour in this story as the teacher is referred to as ‘Fiat, because she resembles a car; short, squat, almost black, with mirrored headlight sunglasses’.
‘Rainy Day’ is a one paragraph story in which Berlin manages to convey the life of a man in detox through first person narrative.
My favourite story is ‘Cherry Blossom Time’, a story of a mother, Cassandra, spending her days in early spring taking care of her young son. It reveals the often repetitiveness and predictability of a young mother’s life, and the despair she feels, whilst also considering herself selfish at her lack of appreciation for her life. The gulf between Cassandra and her husband gapes as she struggles along in silence.
Fans of Berlin’s earlier collection will feast over this new selection of stories, marking the talent of an often forgotten writer.
Evening in Paradise (2018) is published by Picador.
Kate Jones is a freelance writer, yoga lover and NHS worker from the North of England. Her essays, reviews and flash fiction have appeared in many varied places, including Spelk, Feminartsy and The Short Story.