In The Era of Lanterns and Bells, a lighthouse is haunted by the memory of lighthouse keepers, a train operator is forever changed by a subway suicide, a journalist befriends a homeless virtuoso, an orca trainer believes she's a whale, an aerialist runs away from the circus, and a Golden Gate Bridge jumper saves lives with fortune cookies. An obese woman is rescued from being a shut-in, a woman discovers that her favorite childhood pond is polluted and cancer-causing, a woman falls in love with a bipolar man in Jamaica, and an arborist writes love letters from trees. These quirky and darkly comic stories entertain while posing essential questions about truth, compassion, and humanity.
Tinkham’s melancholy yet uplifting collection of 12 stories portrays her characters’ deep inner turmoil and their desire to connect on an emotional level with others, share a profound sense of humanity, and display altruism. In “Two Strings Short,” a naive journalist tries to donate a Stradivarius violin to a paranoid homeless musician who is reluctant to accept help. An overbearing Jewish mother bonds with her daughter’s black boyfriend over knowledge of fine wine in “Fickle Grapes.” In the title story, a centuries-old lighthouse reminisces about the succession of its keepers—from the unhinged, to the tragic, to the suicidal—leaving a trail of ghosts. Two of the better stories involve characters striving to bring out the best in others: in “Cookies of Fortune,” a series of fortune cookies provide hope and humor for three different men contemplating suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge, and in “Treemail,” an antisocial arborist with a heartbreaking family history learns to trust people again by speaking for the trees. Readers will delight in Tinkham’s use of detailed sights and sensations, and will enjoy ruminating on these thoughtful and redemptive stories. (BookLife)