The Best Fiction of 2015

a manual for cleaning women

A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin

By far 2015’s most important American rediscovery, the reemergence of Berlin will make you curse your elders. Why wasn’t she always available to us? A writer who spent much of her life in the American West, who was best known (intermittently) from the ’70s to the ’90s, Berlin writes stories that shoot point blank into the lives of her characters. Drugs, alcohol, abortion, poverty: still, these stories are deceptively unadorned, warmed over by Berlin’s wit — then cooled by reality. You’ll forget altogether that you’re reading fiction. It turns out that the year’s best fiction about American austerity was written three, four, five decades ago. —JS