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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 4, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'd never been to San Francisco when I read the first five Tales of the City books. Armisted Maupin had created this wacky, wonderful city that seemed as fictional as the setting of any fantasy. I saved book six for my first visit to San Francisco, and once I arrived, I discovered the magical city that Maupin had created was exactly as described. On that first visit to San Francisco, I called my best friend and said, "I'm pulling a Mary Ann." I've been here nearly a decade.

I relate the above to explain that these books have had a fairly significant influence on my life. These characters are dear friends. And at one point I did very much empathize with series protagonist Mary Ann Singleton. Over time, we grew apart. I didn't understand all the choices she had made. Now Mary Ann and I are both a lot older than we were when we first met. After all this time, it is such a pure delight to catch up with her!

Alas, things aren't going so well on her end--on a variety of levels. Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." For Mary Ann, that place is San Francisco, with Michael "Mouse" Tolliver. He and his husband Ben don't let her down. In addition to Mary Ann's crises, this novel spends significant time checking in with Michael's business partner, Jake, and Mary Ann's adopted daughter, Shawna. An extra bonus in this novel, for long-time devotees like me, is that one of the plot elements ties back to the very first Tales novel.

I read this novel in no time flat. It was a joy from start to finish! (Oh, and if I weren't blurring the lines between fact and fiction enough already, a real life acquaintance of mine makes a cameo appearance in the book! That's a first.) Armisted Maupin makes what he does look so easy, almost as if he's channeling the members of this non-traditional family. (The "logical family" as opposed to the biological family, as Anna Madrigal would say.) He imbues his tales with such humor and such heart. The stories are completely over the top, yet grounded in an emotional reality. No one does this better.

Armisted, I am so grateful that you're again telling tales of the city. I hope to visit with these friends for many years to come.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 28, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The TALES OF THE CITY series begins with Mary Ann Singleton's decision to remain in San Francisco. We first see the other characters through her eyes as she begins to explore her new home and gather her logical (as opposed to biological) family around her.. When the first series of six books concluded Mary Ann abandoned her home and friends for yet another new life in New York, leaving many readers - this one included - feeling as though they had been let down by an old friend. When Maupin at last returned to the series with MICHAEL TOLLIVER LIVES readers were delighted to once again catch up with old friends from Barbary Lane but rather saddened that Mary Ann only passed through the story.

Now we travel full circle as Mary Ann once again returns to the City, this time not as a sweet young girl full of hope but as an older, sadder woman seeking solace. Mary Ann's prefect life in Darien had fallen apart. Her trophy husband had disappointed her, her support system had crumbled when she needed it most so once again Mary Ann had turned to logical family, primarily Michael (Mouse) Tolliver, much to the discomfort of his husband Ben. As Michael helps Mary Ann the pair reconnect, enabling her to seek out her (and our) old friends, DeDe and D'Or, Anna, and Shawna. As always with this series the various seemingly unrelated plot lines twist through the story until they ultimately combine into a satisfying climax.

For all of us who had wailed "NOOOOOOOO!" at Mary Ann's departure at the end of SURE OF YOU her return in this novel is most satisfying. The joy of her return though is somewhat bittersweet as more of the ongoing plot lines reach conclusions that seem all too final. Maupin has gently reminded us that no one, not even those in as enchanted a place as San Francisco, will live forever.

This series of novels relates the stories of a group of San Franciscans, all connected with one another in some manner, that began with TALES OF THE CITY. The overall story arc is quite strong so begin at the beginning and proceed in order through this series.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 15, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Armistead Maupin deserves the highest kudos for what he has created. To think that TALES OF THE CITY started as a newspaper serial and then became one book, then another establishing characters that were so real it was as if the reader knew them all. San Francisco is a character just as much as the people. We have straight characters, gay characters, transgendered characters. Basically life itself is represented here. With each book over the years and decades Mr. Maupin has addressed the issues of the time and the characters have become even more endearing over time. A couple years back MICHAEL TOLLIVER LIVES brought readers back to a world of love and friends. Now he returns with MARY ANN IN AUTUMN. The main plot is about Mary Ann but many characters from the original series are here as well from the faithful Michael, Mrs. Madrigal, DeDe and D'or plus many others introduced over the years like Ben, Jake and Shawna. Barbary Lane itself has changed somewhat with the times and this is what keeps these novels alive. Armistead Maupin gives us what and who we loved from past novels while changing with the times and introduces great plots and new characters to care about with each venture. This novel is no different. Our beloved friends are back and reading this book is like curling up with your favorite blanket. The new characters are great and we even get brought back to a plot line from the past which I will leave a mystery. Just let me say this book delivers in all ways.

Please Armistead Maupin, don't stop here. Growing older with these beloved characters is a gift you cannot imagine. Highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's a complete coincidence that I ended up in San Francisco just days before Mary Ann in Autumn, Armistead Maupin's latest installment of the Tales of The City series, was released. The trip was planned well before I ever knew the release date of the novel, but once I learned of the close proximity of the two events, my trip to the Bay Area transformed into a pilgrimage of sorts to Maupin's endearing and iconic works, Mrs. Madrigal, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, and all the denizens of the Tales of the City.

After walking all the way from Market and Powell, getting lost, and going up and down Russian Hill at the grand old age of 46, I found myself, winded and sweating, standing on the steps of Macondray Lane--the real life inspiration for the house that has been etched into my psyche for so long--hoping to capture a little bit of the magic of that literary world. And it's only fitting that in the opening chapter of Mary Ann in Autumn, the titular character, Mary Ann Singleton, finds herself climbing those same stairs to catch a glimpse of her former home, 28 Barbary Lane. With a wistfulness and longing, the 57 year-old stares through the locked gate of the property, similarly trying to recapture the magic that had been her past life, one she abandoned so many years ago along with her husband and adoptive daughter.

With that scene, Maupin perfectly sets the tone for Mary Ann in Autumn, a sweet and solid entry in the Tales of the City mythos that is part nostalgia (for both the readers and the character of Mary Ann), and a deceptively simple exploration of the desire for one person to discover who they truly are after pursuing who they thought they wanted to be.

Mary Ann has returned to San Francisco after some shocking revelations in her personal life, and the first person she contacts is her old friend, Mouse, now happily married to the younger Ben. From the moment Maupin brings the two together, their voices are as if they have never been apart, easily falling into the playful (and sometimes serious) banter that made them an endearing couple of friends in the original works. And here is where the novel succeeds best: the rekindling of that relationship and the literary rehabilitation of Mary Ann.

In the original Tales novel and early sequels, Mary Ann Singleton was an immensely likable young woman, a naïve transplant to San Francisco from the bastion of conservatism, Cleveland. Her journey as she discovered who she was and how she reacts to a city as free as 1970s San Francisco was funny, charming, mysterious and a little bit sad. But starting in the 4th book in the series, Babycakes, Mary Ann found herself in search of a career and she became a not-so-likable person, one who seemed willing to turn her back on family and friends. It was disheartening for me as a reader to see Mary Ann transformed such. Now, don't get me wrong...it was utterly true to life. How many times have we all had someone in our lives who is incredibly dear to us who gets caught up in the desire to be something more and becomes someone we don't like so much any more? There was nothing at fault in Maupin's writing of those later three novels. It was spot on. I simply didn't want to see a dear, wonderful friend become someone I didn't like. I wanted her to always stay Mary Ann. And that, alone, is a testament to Maupin and the character he created. I never wanted her to change.

In Mary Ann in Autumn, though, we find a character who is, again, at a turning point. As she approaches the autumn of her life, she has obviously been taking stock, looking closely at her past choices, the repercussions of some not-so-great actions. In trying to find a way forward, she is looking back at the people she has left behind, one of whom happens to be herself. And she finds that little bit of herself, again. Don't get me wrong, Maupin doesn't magically convert Mary Ann back to whom she was. He doesn't absolve her of her sins. She's older, wiser, still a bit self-absorbed, but it almost feels as if she is exhaling all the inconsequential crap that has been in her life, so that she can breathe in again. And it is exactly in her relationship to Mouse that Maupin so expertly let's us like Mary Ann again, perhaps understand her a bit more.

Maupin also adds in outsiders, those who never knew the Mary Ann we all loved, to help in this rehabilitation, namely Mouse's husband, Ben who is a bit suspicious of this woman and her effect on Michael. Through him--someone without the shared history--we get to learn this new Mary Ann. As Mouse himself says to Ben "Look, I know you think she's a drama queen, but she's had some actual drama."

Now, in any Tales novel, a reader expects some humor, a little bit of mystery and wonderful characters. Maupin is in excellent form here, capturing everything we readers have loved about Tales, but never once relying on our nostalgia for the series. His 2010 San Francisco is just as vibrant and alive as his San Francisco of the 70s and 80s. It has simply grown and changed, morphed into something different, no less charming or infections as its previous incarnation.

In the mystery department, Maupin gives us Shawna, Mary Ann's estranged, adoptive daughter, now a popular sex-blogger looking for a new direction in her life. She fixates on an old homeless woman named Leia, and stumbles onto a mystery that she must solve, a mystery that gives us readers a genuine aha! moment or two that is richly satisfying. But that's not all...Facebook figures into it all as well, giving us yet another jolt that can't be revealed in a review. Now I tend to pride myself on figuring out twists and turns, but Maupin honestly got me on these. I didn't have it figured out until it was very clear that Maupin wanted me to. Perhaps I was just naive, but I was genuinely taken by surprise by the twists.

In the character department, Mrs. Madrigal is still with us and although her role is somewhat limited, she's just as pithy as always, each of her "dears" just warming my heart, and her spirit is richly pepered throughout the novel. DeDe Halcyon makes an appearance, as does D'or. And Maupin augments the Barbary Lane family with Jake Greenleaf, an immensely appealing trans-man, Michael's Ben, and Shawna's adorable and patient boyfriend Otto. These are all welcome additions to the family, feeling as natural as the characters we've all known for year.

Now, I have read a few reviews that mention the conspicuous absence of Brian Hawkins (Mary Ann's ex-husband and father of Shawna) and those who have read Michael Tolliver Lives know that the beloved Mona is no longer with us. But I never felt their absence in this novel because Maupin has expertly woven their spirits into the work. Mona is there...a large part of her spirit embodied in Shawna...and Brian is present as well, aspects of his personality richly resonant in two of the new characters. One might even spot a younger version of Mouse or, perhaps, a successor to Mrs. Madrigal.

In the end, Mary Ann in Autumn is still a love-letter to San Francisco. It's still a wonderfully magical series that, I think, Maupin has reinvented for the new millennium. He shows us that you can indeed go home again, though that home will have changed and grown just as we have. Most importantly, he shows us that while 28 Barbary Lane may have become a single-family dwelling, its spirit is still strong. Because 28 Barbary Lane isn't so much a time or a place, some clapboard building at the top of a set of rickety stairs...28 Barbary Lane is our "logical family," the family we've created and carry with us always, no matter where we may be.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 1, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Mary Ann in Autumn" is Armistead Maupin's eighth novel in the "Tales of the City" stories. My suggestion would be, if you're not familiar with this wonderful series, to start at the beginning and read them in order. If you already are famliar with and have read the previous books, then it won't take you long to become very comfortable with what, over the years, have become good friends. Suffice it to say Mary Ann is the catalyst that brings them all together, her story around which it all flows. It's hard to believe most of these characters made their way into book form over thirty years ago. Maupin's charactes have become such good literary friends over those years, and any chance, such as provided by this latest book, to spend time with them once again is a treat indeed.

My first introduction to "Tales of the City" was back in the early 90's, when a friend, an avid reader, passed the first book onto me, suggesting I'd probably enjoy it. And enjoy it I did, promptly, through our local library, seeking out the remaining five books, all then available, in the series, suggesting to other friends that they must read the books, that they were in for a very special experience.

A regret for this fan, and probably for the author, is that, though several of the books made their ways to the screen and were wonderfully cast (imagine...Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney!), this probably will not be the fate of the remaining books. But Armistead Maupin is such a skilled storyteller that, screen treatment aside, it all comes vividly to life through his writing.

After I had read the first six books, I sent a letter to Maupin, through the books' publisher. I was thrilled to receive the nicest of replies to my "thank you" to him; I remember stating in my letter, "I had never heard of you until my friend had introduced me through the first book." In his letter to me, he said, "Don't apologize. I didn't know who you were either until I received your letter." Over the years I've made a point, now through e-mail addresses if available, of contacting authors whose works, on completion of a book, left me feeling I'd just had the best of reading experiences. Maupin's response to my letter is a treasured one among many I've received from so many authors.

Anyhow, I'm not telling you anything more about "Mary Ann in Autumn" other than, if you've not read the previous books, start at the beginning. And if you are familiar, well, then, this latest brings so much of the gang back for a more than satisfying reading experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
With a creatively appropriate title, MARY ANN IN AUTUMN reads like a letter from a long-lost friend, catching up on 18 years of intrigue. In the true spirit of the Tales of the City series that earned Armistead Maupin fame, this is his eighth. Maupin's masterpiece has sassy insight into all three genders --- and those lost in between --- in the City by the Bay. Welcome back, Mary Ann, "Michael's favorite drama queen!!!"

When Mary Ann "rolled into town with a fresh steaming load of drama, Michael parenthesized his head with his hands." She is now 57, on the lam from her philandering second husband in Connecticut --- and a secret inside that she cannot hide. Point-of-view character Mary Ann Singleton has matured. She now shares the stage with Michael "Mouse" Tolliver's much younger husband, Ben. Does this portend a shift to Ben's POV to take the series into the next three decades?

True to the naiveté of the Mary Ann in Maupin's original newspaper series, she sets up her first Facebook page --- and gets an alarming message, taking her back to true drama that ensnared her roughly 30 years before. "[E]verything around her was familiar but somehow foreign. She was no more a San Franciscan than the doughy woman in a...sweatshirt climbing off the cable car." More shocking than an earthquake, she is no longer an optimistic Pollyanna. Cancer can do that.

Maupin gives the speed-read version, bringing readers up to...well, speed. Mary Ann had married and divorced lothario Brian Hawkins and adopted Connie from Cleveland's daughter, Shawna, who is hauntingly reminiscent of Mona Ramsey. Mary Ann had achieved fleeting TV fame, become estranged from Shawna, and moved back east in the late '80s, where she married über-rich Bob. Integral Anna Madrigal (portrayed by Olympia Dukakis in a three-part miniseries) is now pushing 90 and has had a stroke that cannot flag her spirit, though she is "about to shuffle off this mortal coil."

Now there is gender-bending Jake Greenleaf, Michael's landscaping business partner. Michael is HIV-positive and has wed Ben. DeDe Halcyon has married D'orothea Wilson and is a grandmother! Jake befriends confused Jonah Flake, a Mormon missionary petitioning for California's Proposition 8. Sex blogger Shawna and friend Otto meet "a homeless woman in a dirty red tracksuit." Seemingly unimportant, she becomes as prominent as Lombard Street.

What appears to be Maupin's mishmash of "capital-F Friends" is more like an intricate jigsaw puzzle with interlocking pieces: Take out one and the picture is incomplete. Mystery and intrigue tie tangential characters together like twine. And there's a kick-in-the-crotch ending that could not have been anticipated.

In a poignant discussion about fidelity in marriage, and his ambiguous vows with Ben, Michael tells Mary Ann: "If monogamy becomes more important than fidelity, you're bound to get hurt. It's all the lying that clobbers you, not the sex. [H]aving to keep something secret can drive a huge wedge between you."

Maupin works magic; he made me feel young again, flashing back to the days of 28 Barbary Lane. Like so many brilliantly colored ribbons, Maupin ties his characters into a beautiful bow, to decorate this perfect gift for the holidays. With writing as rich as San Francisco's Golden Era, this tale of the city strikes the mother lode.

--- Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 17, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a great pleasure to return to Armistead Maupin's San Francisco, a place I didn't even know I missed until I started "Mary Ann in Autumn," the wonderful continuation of his Tales of the City saga. Without getting too cliche about it, reading this book is like sitting down with a close, old friend for a late night of shared memories (most good, some not so). It's a comfort, a blessing, a heartfelt reminder of the importance of friends and family, however one defines that. And I'd forgotten what a funny, insightful, gifted writer Maupin is. Personally, I found the ending a bit abrupt, and the final plot twist melodramatic and unnecessary. But that's a minor reservation when compared to the solid storytelling and characterizations that proceeded it. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I was so happy to have a visit with these old friends. I enjoyed "Michael Tolliver Lives", but format-wise and focus-wise it wasn't actually a new volume in the "Tales of the City" series. "Mary Ann in Autumn" really is! I have read some of the other Amazon reviews, and a number of readers were unhappy about loose ends and unresolved issues and also about not enough "airtime" for some of the characters. I found all this to be the essence of the series: leaving the reading wanting to find out more and anticipating the next volume. I have read that this book is the first installment of new entries in the series, and I can't wait for the next "Tales of the City" book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
IL have read all of the books in the tales of the city series, and i was dissapointed in this one. it appears that the author has run out of things to write about. contrived would be my best description. mary ann has been away from the barbary neighborhood for twenty years and her efforts to reconnect with the fascinating people who she knew before leaving the city fall flat.

perhaps thomas wolfe was right.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Well, if you've made it this far, you are no doubt a fan of Maupin's extremely addictive "Tales of the City" series. This latest addition to the resurrected and much beloved series of books about a group of friends living in San Francisco (an extended family, if you will) is full of all the elements that readers love about the books. This one is full of funny, heartbreaking, maddening, and thrilling incidents. And as always, Maupin throwns in a few surprises to keep the reader off balance. These are characters that many of us have literally grown up with, and have become attached to, and it's a delight to meet their acquaintance once again. Plus, Maupin introduces to a few new characters, along with some that have grown from children to adulthood. Life goes on. This is a sheer joy to read and fans of the series are sure to embrace this novel. We are Family.
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