Monday, February 07, 2011

Mary Ann in Autumn, by Armistead Maupin

(hb; 2011: Book Eight in the Tales of the City series)

From the inside flap:

"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 gardener happily esconced with his much-younger husband.

"Mary Ann finds temporary refuge in the couple's backyard cottage, where, at the unnerving age of fifty-seven, 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 checkered past comes back to haunt her in a way she never could have imagined.

"After the intimate first-person narrative of Maupin's last novel Michael Tolliver Lives, Mary Ann in Autumn marks the author's return to the multicharacter plotlines and darkly comic themes of his earlier work. 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."


Mary Ann in Autumn is as warm, fresh, joyous, City-centric and charming as the original Tales of the City novel, with a dark mystery element (much like the original novel, More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City).

The mystery element in this gradual-passing-of-the-torches novel isn't such a mystery (a mild disappointment), but the writing is tight and witty, and the characters still feel like family, as usual, with a welcome return to form - as much as I liked Michael Tolliver Lives, I prefer Maupin's multicharactered storylines, which structure his best novels.

Readers familiar with Maupin's work will probably recognize Gabriel Noone, who gets a mention in Mary Ann. (Noone is the main character in one of Maupin's non-Tales books, The Night Listener - further proof of Maupin's ability to seamlessly bring his otherwise disparate characters together, and making his readers smile.)

I love this book. One of my favorite entries in this series. Worth owning, this.

Followed by The Days of Anna Madrigal.


Liz said...

This (the book) was such a treat. These are the only books that I have read ten times. When I read them, it is like going home ... actually much better than home, it's what home ought to have been.

Steve Isaak said...

I've read the series, up to the eighth book, twice, so yeah, I feel what you're saying - though I have selectively re-read books for the sake reviewing for them on this site.

I lived in San Francisco briefly - my stay there was far darker than Maupin's take - and read some of the "City" books while I lived there, so it was a double treat.

For a little while, the characters of 28 Barbary Lane (with the exception of Mary Ann) felt more like family than my own blood kin - still do, for the most part. =)

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