Armistead Maupin reminds us once again that a family can be what you make it. The characters in his series, Tales of the City, have been a formed-family since they first appeared in print some thirty years ago. The Barbary Lane collective house, headed by Anna Madrigal, had been home for many years to a disparate group of people who had lived, and loved, together. Introduced first in Maupin's five "Tales" books, the characters have aged appropriately as Maupin himself has aged. AIDS and other diseases - mental as well as physical - have taken their toll on the former residents of the Lane, but Mary Ann Singleton, Brian (missing from this book), Michael and Ben, as well as DeDe and D'Or and Anna Madrigal herself, have found life - and love - have continued.
Of course, the older generations above - original residents of Barbary Lane - have been joined in recent books by Shawna and Jake, as well as other characters. The younger generation have certainly enlivened the lives of the older group, as well as becoming part of the Barbary Lane Family.
In "Mary Ann in Autumn", Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco from her home in the wealthy suburb of Darien, fleeing both the demise of a bad marriage and the frightening diagnosis of uterine cancer. She had left her Barbary Lane "family" twenty years earlier, returning only for a short visit to Anna after her stroke a few years previously. Now Mary Ann has returned, seeking solace from her many friends. Maupin writes well - as usual - of the feelings of the older generation and the worries that age brings us. Ill health, death, and the uncertainty of relationships are written about in Maupin's masterful hand. This is a beautifully told story of a "family" that can't be torn apart because they have chosen to be a family. No matter the geographical distance between "family members", the long-held bonds of love hold everyone together. All families should be so lucky.
Although it was the 1970s when Armistead Maupin first introduced readers to the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, it grew from that newspaper serial to six bestselling novels and an award winning TV series. Thanks to the skills of Maupin the story of those people is as engaging today as it was then. What a pleasure it is to be reintroduced to Mary Ann Singleton in the insightful, compassionate MARY ANN IN AUTUMN, A Tales of the City novel.
We read Mary Ann's thoughts, 'The past doesn't catch up with us.....It escapes from us. At the landing she stopped to catch her breath.' Yes, catch her breath for Mary Ann is now 57-years-old. It's been some 20 years since she left her husband and daughter for New York and what she hoped would be a stellar career on television. But now luck, mostly bad, has sent her back to the place of her youth - San Francisco. There she finds refuge in the arms and cottage of her longtime friend, Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver.
She ponders, assess her mistakes and eventually seems to be recouping some of her energy, appears to be almost her old self when she finds that she cannot escape her past.
Other characters who emerge and engage in this witty/touching story are Mary Ann's estranged daughter, Shawna, who is now a sex blogger; Michael's transgendered gardening assistant, Jake Greenleaf; the highly social DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the incredible Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann's former landlady who is now in her eighties and as irascible as ever.
Many thanks to Maupin for one more visit with the beloved characters only he could have created.
- Gail Cooke
on December 28, 2010
I read Tales of the City many years ago and when I saw there was a new book I picked it up. It took a while for me to get into this book - over 50 pages I would say, but once I got back into the style I really enjoyed it. I love the ways the Maupin details his characters and how everything comes together. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys Armistead Maupin.
on April 16, 2013
Reconnecting with all the characters from Tales of the City is like comfort food. There all here: Mary Ann, Mouse, Miss Madrigal...the book, like its predecessors, has a great plot (revisiting some unfinished business from the first tome), funny and tender moments... It's a must for fans of the series!