IF MY BOOK: Sin Eaters, Caleb Tankersley

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Caleb Tankersley writes about his debut story collection, Sin Eaters, out now from University of Alaska Press.

If Sin Eaters were an animal it would be an Okapi, that vaguely familiar head on a mismatched body, the kind of creature requiring a double take to make sense of, strangely elegant. A quiet forest dweller, occasionally leaping into the clearing with a blur of stripes. Don’t ask me to explain the prehensile tongue.

If Sin Eaters were a family member it would be your favorite great aunt: funny, loud, and always tossing sass around. Never afraid to take her clothes off (supposedly) when she was younger, to the shock of all her prim sister. She’s gabby, but your great aunt gets sad sometimes and has to sit quietly, and it’s in those between moments that you understand who she really is.

If Sin Eaters were a part of the body, it would be the skin flaps from the chest of a split open cadaver, the newly freed ribcage now blessed with wings in a way that is sad and a little funny but also beautiful.

If Sin Eaters were a tattoo it would look exactly like the cover of Sin Eaters and be in an unmentionable location. Your great aunt probably has it.

If Sin Eaters were a kid in high school she’d be the quiet one in the corner who is forced to go to church camp but also paints her nails black and wears band T-shirts every day and listens to thundering goth music on her giant headphones as often as possible. She’s waiting until college for her life to really begin as she develops an internal rage at all the things in her life that are telling her what to do when all she really wants is to both punch and hug everyone she sees.

If Sin Eaters were a movie it would be about a prison escape, only the walls of the prison move in a few inches every day, so the clock’s ticking on our main hero—who is totally guilty, by the way—as he and a ragtag group of degenerates work together to defeat the evil warden and escape into the void beyond, only to realize that the real prison is time.

If Sin Eaters were an ice cream it would be Mexican chocolate, something sweet and creamy but with a lingering, peppery tickle you can’t shake from the back of your throat.

If Sin Eaters were a religion . . . it wouldn’t do that to you.

Caleb Tankersley is the author of the chapbook Jesus Works the Night Shift. His writing can be found in Carve, The Cimarron Review, Hobart, Sycamore Review, and more. He is the managing director for Split/Lip Press and lives near Seattle. Winner of the 2021 Permafrost Prize in Fiction, Sin Eaters is his debut collection. Follow Caleb on Twitter at @Caleb_of_1988.

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