Maupin continues his popular Tales of the City saga (Michael Tolliver Lives, 2007, etc.) with the return to San Francisco of Mary Ann Singleton after 20 years in the cushy Connecticut suburbs.
She’s caught her retired-CEO husband cheating via Skype, and she’s been diagnosed with uterine cancer, so Mary Ann heads west to take refuge with Michael, her former housemate from 28 Barbary Lane, and his much-younger husband Ben. Lesbian buddies DeDe and D’or find Mary Ann a female oncologist, and while she’s waiting for surgery, Ben gets her onto Facebook so she can reconnect with people who knew her as a local TV celebrity back in the '80s. Meanwhile, Shawna, the adopted daughter Mary Ann left with ex-husband Brian when she moved east, is looking to expand her popular Grrrl on the Loose blog into subjects beyond sex. Jake, Michael’s transgendered partner in his gardening firm, doesn’t have the money to complete the transition from female to male because business is lousy following the economic meltdown, though San Francisco’s bohemians are hopeful following Obama’s election. And Cliff, Ben’s casual acquaintance from the dog park, is brooding over something Ben would rather not know about, since the elderly drunk clearly has serious personal problems. Maupin’s chronicle of interconnected lives and tangled personal relations is as engaging and warmhearted as ever, but he’s more careless than usual with structure. Shawna fixates on a drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless woman who proves to be linked to the Barbary Lane past via an outrageous plot twist that also connects a creepy Facebook "friend" of Mary Ann’s with a pedophile she once knew—who turns up toting a gun. Maupin should have trusted his fallible, lovable characters to sustain our interest; resorting to such a luridly melodramatic device detracts from the pleasure of reacquainting ourselves with them.
Agreeable entertainment until the ridiculous denouement.