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Evening in Paradise


"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives ...
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Discuss Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin:
Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Created: 11/04/19

Replies: 29

Posted Nov. 04, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2245

Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)


Posted Nov. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lesleyf

Join Date: 05/14/11

Posts: 89

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I was not very impressed with most of these stories because the people were too ordinary. So much so that I did not care much about them. In stories and plays you must somehow care about the characters or there's little point. That said, there were three stories which contained a remark or comment or description so moving that I underlined it and marked the page to return and copy it down. Those three stories were Andato, Itinerary, and Lead Street Albuquerque.
One of the stories however was a knockout and that was Lost in the Louvre At the outset, Ms. Berlin describes how she felt about trying to go to sleep and "catching " herself at the moment of sleeping. That was terrific and very real to me. The entire description of wandering in museums and through gardens was brilliantly told, as though I were inside her mind sharing her thoughts.
In our group we do a thumbs up or down as a group vote to see if it was a success. This one gave a thumbs sideways!


Posted Nov. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

Posts: 444

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

i really enjoyed this collection of stories because part of what I have enjoyed about world travels is observing everyday people, noticing how different cultures might be, but how-ultimately- all people really want the same things: some security, enough food to eat, a place to call home, a sense of safety, friends or relatives to call family, and then when survival is not threatened, to have time to enjoy some fun. Sometimes just one paragraph in a story would make me pause and smile as I thought back to an experience in another state, another country. For example, page 129, "Evening in Paradise": the flirtations at the Oceano bar with everyone hoping for something different and new and exciting, but inevitably, the patterns of behavior turn out the same with "[Ruby] funny and fun but after she drank a lot she got mean..."


Posted Nov. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elyseg

Join Date: 11/13/17

Posts: 29

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I didn't like this book as well as her previous collection, which I loved. Many of the stories read like memories of dreams - bits and pieces snatched here and there. A number of them I could not get into at all.


Posted Nov. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
N*Starr

Join Date: 03/13/14

Posts: 45

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I was expecting to love this set of short stories. But I was underwhelmed by the topics and the stories. Maybe I had built up too much mythology around Lucia Berlin, maybe it’s because the stories felt dated and that they did not transcend time well. Whatever the cause, I would only recommend this book to someone who truly loves the art form of a short story.


Posted Nov. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Maggie

Join Date: 01/01/16

Posts: 255

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

She definitely was a intellectual writer. But I thought many of the stories were odd and depressing.


Posted Dec. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
djcminor

Join Date: 03/14/19

Posts: 89

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I particularly disliked "Andado." I found it creepy and knew from the first page what would happen and did not like the outcome at all. The stories I like best are the vignettes, short and pithy, depicting glimpses into the characters' lives. On the whole, I doubt I will recommend the stories to my friends. Perhaps my overall comment would be that the stories are sad.


Posted Dec. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janeb

Join Date: 10/09/18

Posts: 28

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Evening in Paradise set the scene and populated it with amusing characters who were very human. The end had a surprise touch reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor. Delightful!


Posted Dec. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gwenc

Join Date: 07/14/12

Posts: 50

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I did not particularly care for the first two stories, but after rereading the foreword and skipping to the back and reading the note at the end, I was better able to delve into the collection. What a life she led! One wondered how much was fiction or true experience. Two stories that have stuck with me are"Andado: A Gothic Romance," and "Dust to Dust." Even though our lifestyles are/were totally different, I found myself thinking "nailed it!" in many of her descriptions.


Posted Dec. 02, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
peggyt

Join Date: 08/10/17

Posts: 143

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Beautifully written but frequently very sad. Glad I read it though.


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cathyoc

Join Date: 04/26/17

Posts: 106

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

These stories were so realistic, they lifted you into them and painted such a vivid picture. The events that took place in these stories are so different from my experiences, yet the matter of fact way the author wrote them made me believe in the characters and events. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories.


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 244

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

In the range of settings and diverse characters, Berlin has given her readers a slice of life--sometimes seedy and bleak but with a ray of hope, sometimes small but, nevertheless, there.


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
KelHydra

Join Date: 08/05/19

Posts: 17

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

This was my first time reading any of Lucia Berlin's stories. I actually really enjoyed them. I've been trying to read more short stories lately, and I've read through a lot of James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, Shirley Jackson, among others, and I feel like Berlin fits right in with her stories about the precarities of place, love, and life.

Although many of the stories ARE downright depressing, I think Berlin also shows us the little moments of beauty, like when the sun shines through a glass-filled vacant lot creating a "mosaic carpet of glass." And the various ways she describes the sky and moon are fantastic (my favorite: "An uncanny moon toppled fluorescent over the Sandia Mountains."). Her sense of humor was wicked as well. There were several times I definitely scared my kids by laughing out loud. :)


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroler

Join Date: 01/12/16

Posts: 24

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Not my cup of tea. Generally, it was too chaotic, I had trouble following characters and sometimes just too many of them.


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
katherinep

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 235

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

i found myself impatient with her and her characters. There weren't many stories I cared for although the last two or three were the best.


Posted Dec. 03, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 240

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am fascinated by Latin American culture, so I found myself pulled into to many Berlin's stories because of her focus and my interest. One reason that I love to read is that many times the author presents life and its problems as happier, more resolvable- -who doesn't love a happy ending, right? It is refreshing to read about normal, everyday people struggling, surviving, and just doing what is right in front of them. Surviving, not thriving.

Moms use drugs and drink, dads have affairs, people can't always make ends meet, there are differences among cultures. Reading about families who are less than perfect put my own life in perspective. The stories also provide context, maybe, for what we really need to be talking and thinking about and reacting to.


Posted Dec. 05, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolf

Join Date: 07/10/14

Posts: 63

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I found some of the stories to be somewhat "uninteresting" is the best way I would describe this book. I could not help wondering if these stories were just the left over stories after her first book was published to much acclaim and the publishers thought they could ride on that wave by publishing the dregs that remained.


Posted Dec. 06, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
josephinej

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 72

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I enjoyed most of the stories. Some I felt were just sketches for stories, unfinished, waiting for further editing or writing. As I posted before, I wish the publishers had added a date for each story. We readers know (for the most part) when a novel was written; but posthumous stories give us no clue. However, there were enough stories with 4 sons (Ben, Keith, Nathan, and Joel, for the most part, over and over) to indicate they were later, although how much isn't known.


Posted Dec. 06, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nancyl

Join Date: 04/21/14

Posts: 39

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

The stories were depressing. I couldn't identify with any of the characters.


Posted Dec. 07, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lole

Join Date: 11/30/19

Posts: 25

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I found this book a very satisfying read. Life is tough and she doesn't downplay the rough spots but portrays them with poetic descriptions and raw human emotion. The discussion questions were helpful to me, as I read more thoroughly and more thoughtfully. Some images will stay with me a very long time.


Posted Dec. 08, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
runnerjohn

Join Date: 12/05/19

Posts: 1

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I had received notice I was to receive a hard copy of this book and to join this discussion; but in the meantime, before the book arrived in the mail, I saw a review of Berlin’s book, “Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs and Letter” in the New York Times Book Review, without actually remembering I was signed up to read her stories.

The memoir follows her life starting out in Alaska, follows her through mid-Western mining towns and ends in Buenos Aires. She died from cancer before being able to complete her writing.

Coincidentally, the chronology of the stories in this collection roughly follows the chronology of the places she lived throughout her life. The first story in the book where she is selling the names for the chances to win a music box seems very much like a story that would have taken place in a town where her father was working as part of his job working in mining, in a town they had moved to in her early life. Then towards the end of the book, the stories in South America coincide with her father having moved up in the mining business to a influential position.

Her stories are certainly informed by her life experiences. The writing is sensual in nature...meaning it describes through the five senses. There are a lot of sounds, tastes, smells, touch feelings, and, of course visual descriptions. Generally, I think a lot of writing tends towards the visual, along with feeling feelings; so when the other senses are added in, it tends to deepen the involvement in the stories...kind of putting you more in the environment of where they are taking place...instead of being a passive observer, you get placed into the whole of the situation. Some of the stories put you including uncomfortable situations...and when you add up all the surrounding descriptions of that reality, well, it can throw you right into the depressed depths that the characters in the stories find themselves, which can indeed be a rather dark place.

I plan on continuing with this thread of an idea, but am posting this up to now in order to not be left out of other discussions.

Best,
John


Posted Dec. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
xandrabk

Join Date: 04/16/19

Posts: 24

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

This book was a little hard for me to read. I kept forcing myself to keep reading because I wanted to give it a chance. I hate to start on a book and not finish. It was a little bit on the depressing side to me.


Posted Dec. 09, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorinned

Join Date: 10/13/14

Posts: 117

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I found the stories interesting but a little tedious in that so many of them related incidents and people and activities to which I could not really relate. I did not feel involved in the stories - I read them all but did not feel compelled to read them.


Posted Dec. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
viquig

Join Date: 06/25/14

Posts: 38

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I was looking forward to this book since my mother was born in Chile. However, I can't say that I liked many of the stories because I could not relate to any of the characters. Also most of the stories were depressing and the characters were often unlikable. I preferred the stories that had children as the protagonists. These characters had spontaneity and innocence that was endearing.


Posted Dec. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 423

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I'm not much of a short story reader, but I did like this collection; it was beautifully written.

@RunnerJohn: Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I knew I liked the stories but wasn't sure why in particular I felt they were exceptional. Your post above about the author's ability to include ALL the senses really put that into focus for me.


Posted Dec. 10, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jennie r

Join Date: 08/06/17

Posts: 44

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

This collection of short stories was, for me, a mixed bag. Some were very good reading, others just so-so, and a couple I didn’t enjoy at all. I did love the way the author described the settings for many of the stories...they allowed me to see in my minds eye the landscapes and geography. Many of the characters were also so well described, I could picture them.


Posted Dec. 11, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
scgirl

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 136

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I don't think I like short stories all that much. I have enjoyed stories which thematically merge together at the end but this, while well written, was definitely not my favorite.


Posted Dec. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

Posts: 422

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I just couldn't get it to it, it seemed quite confusing to me.


Posted Dec. 16, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 285

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

It was an OK read but not my favorite. I found some of the stories depressing and not seeming to go anywhere. I guess I would describe it as "snapshots of life" but not lives I was overly interested in. kHer descriptions were wonderful though.


Posted Jan. 23, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Elizabeth Marie

Join Date: 05/26/18

Posts: 57

RE: Overall, what do you think of Evening in Paradise? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Overall, I found this collection of short stories to be a very interesting read. I was amazed at Berlin’s ability to capture such detailed settings and characters with just a few, precise words or phrases. She managed to engage all of senses and emotions even when I didn’t particularly like the characters.


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