Armistead Maupin’s New Tales of the City Book is His Best Yet.

Posted on November 12, 2010
Filed Under Book Review, Strong Recommendation | Leave a Comment

After twenty-one years, Armistead Maupin has finally released another Tales of the City book.  The result is more literary, more serious and–for me–more emotionally moving than any of Mr. Maupin’s previous books.

Mr. Maupin answers my first question early on:  Namely, could this be possible?  Could we really re-assemble Mary Ann Singleton, Michael Tolliver and the others under the roof of Anna Madrigal’s famous house?  The answer, of course, is no. The novel begins with a beautifully evocative description of San Francisco today.  The description of that house on Barbary Lane is also crystalline accurate:

The lych-gate was the same, only new.  The redwood shingles on its roof had been crumbly with dry rot when she moved to the East Coast in the late eighties.  Now they were made of slate–or a good imitation thereof. The gate itself, once creaky but welcoming, had been fitted with lock and a buzzer and something under the eaves that looked like a security camera.  So much for a quick snoop around the garden.

This description is from Mary Anne Singleton’s point of view.  And her return to San Francisco marks the beginning of a reunion of the principle Tales of the City characters.  But this reunion never seems forced.  Indeed, this is the most realistic of the Tales of the City books.  There are surprises, but they are logical.  And literally and figuratively down-to-earth.  But I don’t want to give away too much.

I don’t think I’m giving away too much to say that Mary Ann Singleton has uterine cancer.  She decides to have her hysterectomy in San Francisco after learning her husband on the east coast is having an affair.  What she discovers over the next few weeks forms the core of the novel.

I should add, though, that Mary Ann’s story is by no means the only one in this book. One of the most interesting new characters in this book is Michael Tolliver’s co-worker, Jake.  Mr. Maupin introduced Jake to us in his most recent novel, Michael Tolliver Lives, but here he really fleshes this character out.  Jake is a pre-operative, female to male transgendered person.  And Mr. Maupin painstakingly renders the details of his experiences so thoroughly, that the reader seems to inhabit the character.  It’s a rare accomplishment in literature.  And one of the many unexpected pleasures of this novel.

I strongly recommend this book.

Armistead Maupin’s Mary Ann in Autumn is published by Harper Collins.

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