More “Tales of the City” (Mary Ann in Autumn, 2010, etc.), with the former residents of 28 Barbary Ln. still fluttering around their erstwhile landlady.
Anna Madrigal is now 93 and very frail, but she’s still got the gender-crossing panache that led her away from the whorehouse her mother ran in Winnemucca, Nev., and from the unwanted appendages associated with her youth as a boy named Andy. Having had one of the earliest sex-change operations in the U.S., Anna is a legend in the transgender community, and her young caretaker, Jake, has built a special float for her to ride at this year’s Burning Man festival to receive what everyone knows will probably be her final accolades. He is ultimately persuaded by others in their San Francisco circle that it’s too risky, and indeed, the closing chapters’ vivid depiction of the “mosh pit in the desert,” as Michael Tolliver calls Burning Man, makes it seem an unlikely place for an elderly lady. But while Michael, husband Ben, bisexual celebrity Shawna (who’s looking for a sperm donor) and many others are cavorting in the Nevada desert, Anna has unfinished business in not-too-far-away Winnemucca, to which she has persuaded Shawna’s father (and Michael’s close friend), Brian, and his new wife, Wren, to drive her in their air-conditioned RV. So it’s no surprise when Anna finally ends up at Burning Man after the not-terribly-dramatic resolution to a conflict laid out in flashbacks to the year she left home at 16. Readers not up to speed on the series may have trouble sorting out all the relationships (and genders), but Maupin spins his usual good-hearted web of intrigues involving people who have created their own community to shelter them from disapproving straights. The plot is as soap-operatic as usual, though thankfully, Maupin has abandoned the lurid improbabilities that marred Mary Ann in Autumn in favor of touching reunions and reconciliations.
Sweet, undemanding entertainment most suitable for longtime fans.