In Stories I Can't Show My Mother, bat girl receives love voodoo from Needle Man, a woman finagles a direct deposit at a sperm bank, a modern-day Lady Godiva triggers a hot police investigation into a cold case, an astronaut plots to kidnap her former lover's girlfriend, an escort's famous client falls for her, and a woman recovering from a breakup has a mile-high quickie with a stranger. These flirty, playful stories explore sexuality and sensuality, taking you to places your mother never wanted you to discover.
The sex-obsessed protagonists in Tinkham’s provocative collection (after The Era of Lanterns and Bells) are marked by resentment, contempt, and misanthropy. Stronger offerings include “The Magician,” which transforms an embittered woman’s experience with online dating into an epiphany; and “He Brings Me Flowers,” which injects some compassion into a love triangle between a young divorcée, her feckless artist lover, and his high-achieving wife. However, a judgmental worldview pervades Tinkman’s other stories. The charms of “The Sweetness of Salt”—which follows Alexis, an MFA grad turned erotica writer, during her time at a seminar for romance writers, where she hopes to hone her chops with sessions such as “Arousing Adjectives”—are undermined by a sudden mean-spirted rant directed at the industry members, described as “smiling suits with halitosis.” In “Direct Deposit,” a 38-year-old woman’s quest to conceive a child leads to a farcical encounter at a sperm bank, but the humor is undercut by the narrator’s puzzling use of racial stereotypes. While Tinkham’s stories often traffic in simplified assumptions about how the world works, whether about romance publishing or fertility clinics, and feature a pervasive malice toward perceived faults in men, they leave open the possibility that her protagonists get what they deserve. Tinkham’s skill for staging memorable set pieces would benefit from stronger craft. (Self-published)