The central figure in Tales of the City returns two decades later and brings us up to date on most of the popular series’ other characters as well.
Michael is now 55 and HIV-positive, but his meds keep him healthy, along with shots of testosterone administered by 33-year-old live-in boyfriend Ben, who thinks older men are hot. They even got married at City Hall, though of course Michael’s born-again mother, brother and sister-in-law down in Florida flinch every time he refers to Ben as his husband. Fortunately, he’s still got the emotional support of former landlady Anna Madrigal, now 85 and in fragile health, and straight pal Brian Hawkins, sole owner of the nursery they founded together. (Back when Michael thought he was going to die, he decided he’d rather plant gardens.) Brian’s ex Mary Ann, a fellow alum of 28 Barbary Lane, long ago decamped for Connecticut and a stockbroker husband, but their daughter Shawna carries on the San Francisco bohemian tradition as a cheerfully bisexual blogger who chronicles “her escapades in the pansexual wonderland.” So things are good and not so very different from the old days on Barbary Lane as Maupin brings his characters into middle age with his customary blend of ready humor, frank sex scenes (that always seem kind of sweet) and unrepentant antagonism toward the red-state Americans who hate Michael and his kind. Those folks include Michael’s biological family. Michael’s mother, meanwhile, is dying of emphysema, and Michael, who’s faced his own mortality, as well as that of lovers and friends, must now grapple with an impending death that connects him to people with whom he otherwise has nothing in common. Michael’s detested father, though dead for many years, provides a startling final plot twist that enables Michael to make tentative peace with brother Irwin, and Anna’s heart attack prompts Michael to declare allegiance to his true family. Thirty years later, he’s still proud of the life he’s made and the city that made it possible.
Rueful but never regretful, warmhearted and witty: a treat for Maupin’s many fans.