Gina Berriault, who won the National Book Critics Circle and PEN/Faulkner awards in 1997 for her collection of short stories "Women in Their Beds," has died.
The 73-year-old Ms. Berriault, a longtime resident of Northern California, died in Sausalito on July 15 after a brief illness.
Throughout her career, critical notices for Ms. Berriault were generally positive, though book sales were not. Andre Dubus called her "a splendid but unheralded writer." Another critic, Molly McQuade, writing in the Chicago Tribune, lamented that Ms. Berriault's work had not "met with a splashy success or even with the sustained respect that it deserves."
In a four-decade-long writing career, her output totaled four novels and three collections of short stories. At the time of her death, she had just completed writing and illustrating a fable, "The Great Petrowski."
She adapted one of her short stories, "The Stone Boy," for the screen. The story described the trauma of a young boy who accidentally kills his brother in a hunting accident. Afterward, he is unable to articulate his grief or receive comfort from his immediate family. He is only able to connect with his grandfather. It became the 1984 film of the same name starring Robert Duvall and Glenn Close.
Ms. Berriault was born Arline Shandling in 1926 to parents who had immigrated to Southern California from Latvia and Lithuania. Her father, a writer and editor of trade magazines, encouraged her early interest in fiction. His death, when she was in her teens, forced her to continue his work to help support the family, which had settled in the Los Angeles area.
During the 1950s, she married John Berriault, a musician, with whom she had one child, a daughter. That marriage ended in divorce.
Her writing career progressed in the 1950s, and by the early '60s, her stories began to appear in leading magazines, literary journals and "best" short story collections. Her first novel, "The Descent," appeared in 1960. It was followed by "A Conference of Victims," which was revised and republished in 1998 under the title "Afterwards." Other novels include "The Son" and "The Lights of Earth." Her short stories were collected in "The Mistress" and the "The Infinite Passion of Expectation."
To support her writing, Ms. Berriault took odd jobs as a waitress and a clerk before landing a position as a creative writing teacher at California State University at San Francisco.
Ms. Berriault's writing often dealt with ordinary people in crisis situations.
"Each of Gina Berriault's stories contains a world, beautifully illuminated by the light of the life within it," novelist Robert Stone said. "Her writing, line for line, is the most emotionally precise I know, and her stories are among the wisest and most heartbreaking in American fiction."
She is survived by her daughter, Julie Berriault, and her longtime companion, writer Leonard Gardner.