Sheldon Charles’s Pimping Out My Sister-in-Law*: Volume 1 is a brief collection of stories about human relationships and looking back at loss.
All four stories in this novella-length collection revolve around a duo facing a challenging moment. In “Words Ever Unspoken,” Carson meets with Missy to return a set of photograph albums and reminisce about their relationship 30 years ago. In the very short “It’s a Surreal Thing,” a young man is floored by a passing encounter with a provocative woman. Peter, in the third story, has a frustrating encounter with his grandfather, who appears to be sliding into dementia. And in the last story, Munro orders a candle designed to smell like a famous actress’s “lady bits” and is launched into an alternative reality that reunites him with a lover he left many years ago.
The stories are well constructed, well-paced, and laced with humor. In the end, though, the reliance on gimmick—such as the collection’s title, which has no meaning outside a private joke of the author’s—lessens the emotional depth and impact. Carson and Missy part ways, for example, both thinking the other is still married. While this turns out not to be the case, the reader has no real reason, other than sexual compatibility, to root for them to be together. “Just Down from Rimpy’s Bait Shop” is so named simply because Peter drives past a sign for Rimpy’s Bait Shop after leaving his grandfather’s house. And in “A Scents of the Virus,” the last story, the reader guesses Munro has contracted COVID-19 well before he dies of it.
In the end, the light nature of the stories—which are, in most cases, simply a frame for sexual fantasy—suggests the collection was written and published largely for the author’s amusement, athough the polished, readable prose and light satiric touch will likely amuse fans waiting for Charles’s next novel.
Also available as an audio book.