Stories I Can’t Show My Mother by Ann Tinkham

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Beau kissed like a pro from what I could tell- the feeling of Goldilocks sinking into just the right bed.

The stories in this collection sway between erotic encounters and disasters. When Mr Right never quite arrives, and Lilly hungers for her own child she figures out a better way to get a Direct Deposit. Needles as a form of spiritual release in Needle Man Sticks Bat Girl, a love desirous of punctures. This feels more like voodoo, who knew it could be so erotic? Some characters are burned out by sexual fantasy, one more word to describe reproductive organs and they’ll just die! A writer trapped creating erotica for reader’s to indulge themselves in wants to break free of all things throbbing for something more serious to create in The Sweetness of Salt.

In Static Breakdown, Misty uses her body as a means to an end, and no one can help the man who falls in love with her. It’s just a role like any other, he’s just a client, and if his life implodes, who cares? Some men need an audience for their ‘roles’, trying on images and personalities. In Fourth Step Tango, an overdue apology forgives nothing. This story is cringe worthy, the things a young woman tolerates. Not all the stories are about tearing up the sheets, a few find the characters confronting situations that force them to understand themselves better or how to ask for what they want in a world that would rather defile them.

Brief encounters of uninhibited release, shucking off the past, these stories are at times provocative and always engaging. It is a unique collection of women making their way in the world, trying to keep their mind and body connected, learning how to be unapologetic and present to their own desires and needs.

Available Now  Published March 2019

Napili Press

Adèle: A Novel by Leila Slimani

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She wishes she were just an object in the midst of a horde. She wants to be devoured, sucked, swallowed whole.

Adèle is more than bored, every desire she has is insatiable and nothing is going to fill that void. Adèle’s husband Richard is a surgeon who loves to spoil her with a gorgeous apartment in Paris,  has pulled strings to get her the job she has as a journalist for a successful newspaper but her enthusiasm has died at work, as much as her joy in mothering their son, Lucien. Apart from fearing a baby would ruin her body and rob her idleness when she found herself pregnant, she comes to love her son but even that love couldn’t tame her urges. There is a line, “For now, she remains in her filth, suspended between two worlds, the mistress of the present tense.”  Filth it is, she is numb, she isn’t really alive and there isn’t a sexual encounter anywhere that can cure what ails her. There isn’t anything erotic about her encounters either, and I don’t feel it’s meant to be, though I labeled this under erotica for readers, because of the sex. She leaves each entanglement more soiled and broken, a life mounting in lies, disappearing from her own child for seedy encounters. On a superficial level she is easy to judge, there isn’t much to like about her , she has so much more than most people and we all know the argument is you can be just as unhappy with everything as someone who has nothing, but let’s just say her standing in life is quite comfortable, minus the struggles the majority of us cope with, a day in her cushy life would be a godsend, naturally this doesn’t endear her to most readers. She is certainly an object, over and over again, as still and devoid of life as a rock.

She is the saboteur of her own happiness and security. Then there is Richard, let’s talk about Richard. It’s easier not to acknowledge the cracks in your wife, to simply play the martyr and suffer for your beloved, to tune out. Then, when Richard finally must lift his head out of the dirt he’s buried it in,  he can play at savior or master depending on how you look at it. Richard can fix this, right? It’s so easy, it’s all about control. If he closes his eyes nice and tight, he won’t have to accept reality as it stands, right?  Just change the scenery, Richard knows best! We’re meant to feel sorry for him, and I do to a point, but he is as much the problem as Adèle’s sexual compulsions. Nothing about her trysts soothes her suffering, she is human wreckage. “She had always thought that a child would cure her.” Why are people always looking outside themselves for the cure?  Who really wants to save another person from themselves, and can you? Richard is always reaching out, trying to touch her it seems. She cannot be touched or reached, she cannot feel hence her desire to be swallowed whole, to be an object only. The novel could also be about the excruciating patience of Richard’s love, because only love that suffers is true? Right? Right? Is Richard just as sick? There is honesty though, in being in love with her still, love tangled in resentment, rage, and pain. His desire for her ‘violent and selfish’ is as corrupt as her own uncontrollable hunger and needs. They are both addicted, if you ask me. Both should be getting treatment. There is a slight peek into her family dysfunction, between she and her parents. Her own father clung to unhappiness,  life among the common people not good enough for him, the closeness she had with her father, who never saw the dirty girl she was, at least according to her mother, never let his ideal of her be defiled by who she truly was at her core, eyes closed to her antics. Is she this way because of her mother, or is it an illness her father had, a deep-rooted dissatisfaction that she inherited? We’ll never know as it’s not deeply explored, but the rot began in childhood. It seems it was an either/or. It’s dad or me! That her mother punishes her for being her father’s favorite.

She is easy to despise, to feel disgusted by. Beauty hides the ugly inside, that monster lurking that won’t look so appealing as time has its way with her. By the end, I was embarrassed for Adèle. It’s such a sad spiral, I spent most of the novel just feeling pity towards her, imagine living with all that rot within, all that indifference, to walk through life so numbed that you destroy everything you have just to feel. Tell me, who the hell wants to be pitied?

One of the saddest moments is when Adèle wishes she could confide in her mother. “She was a burden to her mother when she was a child. Now she has become an adversary…” a child that never had her mother’s tenderness, and maybe because of that faces such a destructive bitterness. Maybe it’s because I am a mother that I felt that moment like a gut punch. Who would Adèle have been if she knew a moment of guidance from her mother? Her mother’s adversary, imagine that.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019

Penguin Books

 

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

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Inside I felt sloppy.

In Open Me, Roxana Olsen, is a young American whose original plan to summer in Paris with her best friend Slyvie falls apart. If she has sharp pangs of want, Sylvie’s life is filled with everything she’ll never have. Due to administrative errors, she learns the day after graduation that she will not be going to Paris with her best friend through a work study program after all. There is an oppurtunity though, she has been booked for a trip to Copenhagen, because there are low numbers of students who applied to the Hoogah Danmark program. The program runs the same amount of time as the one she was originally signed up for. When Sylvia doesn’t seem all that crushed by the prospect of Roxana’s absence, and doesn’t offer her a place to stay with her Aunt in Paris, Roxana decides she’s on her own and a flight to copenhagen is better than being stuck, sifting through the wreckage of her parents recent divorce and working a crappy summer job. She doesn’t inform her parents that Paris is no longer an option, and keeps up the farce that she is in Paris via emails. Once she reaches Copenhagen, she meets Søren and so begins a sexual exploration of her body, a sexual awakening that flirts with danger.

To say that Roxana is naive is an understatement.She soon finds herself wrapped up in the charms of Søreneverything that is foreign about him is exciting. He purposes a plan, a romantic idea to go home with him to Farsø, and after a night of passion and release, she decides to live in the moment. Søren is older, wiser about love and relationships. Recklessly she rushes into a domestic arrangement of sorts with him, lets her life take a new shape, but it distorts. No one knows where she is, she is free to be reborn. It’s shocking that she plunges into such a plan with someone, who was only hours ago a stranger, but it is also exciting. As an older jaded woman (and a mother of a 20-year-old daughter) I just thought, this is what the damage of romantic movies does to common sense. The older you get, the more you look into what is waiting at the bottom of the cliff you’re about to jump off and the less you believe a mysterious stranger will be the answer to your every dream but likely to off you.

In his town he becomes more formal, strange. Maybe it’s just cultural differences, maybe his aloof behavior is a Denmark thing. If whatever this is between her and Søren becomes too intense or sours, well she can always figure something out, right? Soon she is more a kept woman waiting for her lover’s return as he is free to come and go as he pleases. Without a key ( for most of this it sounds like imprisonment, for him it’s more an erotic dream and convenience) she finds ways to escape their love den. It’s not a torture story folks. On her little jaunts outside, she meets Zlaten whom she had an embarrassing moment with already. Here we get a taste of racism, class differences in another country because America isn’t the only country full of Xenophobia. What she experiences with Zlaten is completely different, and in many ways Zlaten is far more worldly than what she imagined Søren to be initially. There is tenderness, not just electric hot attraction between them. As to the erotica, I’ve read my fair share and I’m too old to find anything shocking. There is passion and then there is something meaty, deeper, full of meaning. Roxana is sheltered when she meets Søren, and looking for a great love story, or at least a grand passion, God knows what her head is filled with but Søren’s goal is to disabuse her of the ideal of perfect love. If Søren is detached passion, and raw pleasure then Zlaten is euphoric desire, heart, connection. Some of the sex scenes may be too graphic for some readers, but it serves it’s purpose I think. We are all animals in moments of passion, and it’s not always born out of love, but lust. Uncomfortable, exciting, whose to say what is passion for one person or the next that’s sex for you.

I have to mention the very beginning while not as stimulating as erotica it still bears importance and that is the difference between Roxana and her best friend, how much easier life is for Sylvie with her pretty looks and money. This seems the driving force for Roxana wanting to feed the pangs of desire, to not always be the one left longing for things that seem off-limits. As she disconnects from the dream of Paris, she wants a grand adventure of her own, at any cost. Some light is shed when the anger that her friend doesn’t even bother to message her once she’s off on her own Parisian trip comes to the surface. It seems like such a small thing, but I think it fed into her throwing caution to the wind. A sort of ‘screw her, this is my time to shine!’ It’s hard to watch her throwing herself all over the place, just winging it. How painful youth and growth is! I am a little disappointed in Søren as a character. It felt a little rushed, which of course is the point, but sometimes he didn’t feel real. I think he was a believable hook at the start and then fizzled out as a person, I think there could have been more time spent on him. Zlaten was wonderfully fleshed out though. Short of telling you what she does, who she ends up with I will say this, she does behave sloppy and a little stupid in the way youth allows us, if we’re lucky and not in danger of say, a predator. Danger comes in many forms, usually she is more a danger to herself  with her rash decisions but to be fair, without that fearlessness she wouldn’t have experienced this maddening passion. It’s much more sexual liberation than growing up. Traveling all this way she spends more time between the sheets, so don’t expect a ton of sightseeing or bumping shoulders with the locals. She is confused, wet behind the ears, desperate to quench that bottomless hunger that haunts not just the young, but the old. Does she come to some profund epiphany, well… she certainly understands the desires of the body vs the heart.

Is this just an erotic adventure before college or a meaningful lesson in love?

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Grove Press