Mary Ann in Autumn

Armistead Maupin

Mary Ann in Autumn
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Mary Ann in Autumn

Armistead Maupin

Twenty years have passed since Mary Ann Singleton left her husband and child in San Francisco to pursue her dream of a television career in New York. Now, a pair of personal calamities has driven her back to the city of her youth and into the arms of her oldest friend, Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, a gay gardener happily ensconced with his much-younger husband. Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple’s backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of 57, she licks her wounds and takes stock of her mistakes. Soon, with the help of Facebook and a few old friends, she begins to reengage with life, only to confront fresh terrors when her speckled past comes back to haunt her in a way she could never have imagined. Among those caught in Mary Ann’s orbit are her estranged daughter, Shawna, a popular sex blogger; Jake Greenleaf, Michael’s transgendered gardening assistant; socialite DeDe Halcyon-Wilson; and the indefatigable Anna Madrigal, Mary Ann’s former landlady at 28 Barbary Lane. Over three decades in the making, Armistead Maupin’s legendary Tales of the City series rolls into a new age, still sassy, irreverent and curious, and still exploring the boundaries of the human experience with insight, compassion and mordant wit.

Review

It’s been 25 years since Mary Ann left for New York, swapping a rocky marriage and an adopted daughter for a career in television. Now at the age of 57 she returns, hat in hand, to San Francisco after her second marriage has gone awry and a cancer has been found in her uterus. So begins this latest instalment of the glorious Tales of the City chronicles.

Rabid fans of this series (of which I am unashamedly one) will be overjoyed to catch up with Tales regulars Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver, DeDe Halcyon-Wilson and the irrepressible Mrs Madrigal, who is now well into her eighties, as well as some new characters introduced in the seventh book Michael Tolliver Lives. As with the last book, we envision these characters’ lives once the dust of the 1980s has settled. After being cajoled into joining Facebook, Mary Ann is contacted by a stranger from the past claiming to have knowledge of events that only she is privy to. Meanwhile, her now-adult daughter, Shawna, befriends a mysterious homeless woman and Michael’s husband Ben keeps encountering an elderly man at the park who confides in him.

As with all of his soap-operatic gems, Maupin’s craft with dialogue, wit and the weaving of these disparate threads of plot and sub-plot is masterful and Mary Ann in Autumn is no exception. The only criticism I have is that the pay-off in this novel is somewhat reliant on characters and situations that were conceived in the first Tales of the City and readers of this chapter would benefit from reading it. But really, I’d use any excuse possible to re-read any of these novels. As with the others, as much as I wanted to savour Mary Ann in Autumn in bite-sized pieces, I guiltily consumed it in chunks.

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 Read reviewMary Ann in Autumn

Mary Ann in Autumn

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