Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin

In the eighth book in the Tales of the City series, Mary Ann Singleton is back in San Francisco with the kind of bad news that is best shared with trusted friends. Mary Ann and Michael Tolliver's friendship has lasted through three decades and over long distance. DeDe Halcyon-Wilson is also staunchly at her side.

A lot of time has passed since Mary Ann left for a job on the east coast. Michael has a new partner, Ben, who is 21 years younger. DeDe and her partner D'or have grandchildren. Anna Madrigal is in her 80s, no longer living in 28 Barbary Lane, but sharing a home with a young transman, Jake, who is also Michael's business partner. Mary Ann's estranged daughter, Shawna, is also living in San Francisco, publishing a provocative blog that her mother cannot bear to read.

The original book edition of Tales of the City came out in 1978, but it was serialized in newspaper segments before that. The chapters in the most recent book still have the cliffhanger style of their serialized beginnings. The pace is quick, the tone is breezy, chapters switch between different characters and the multiple plotlines eventually entwine to a satisfying conclusion. It's warm and funny; definitely a feel-good story. While you don't have to remember (or have read) the earlier books to enjoy this one, the experience will be even better if you do.

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