When I was a teenager, I discovered Armistead Maupin's series, Tales of the City and I read through all six books in a single weekend. I was ecstatic when decades later, Maupin decided to revisit the characters in Michael Tolliver Lives. Although it had the same characters, Michael Tolliver Lives was a departure from the storytelling style that he used in the original series and it was a big let-down. I loved the series so much, that I couldn't help but give him a second chance, with Mary Ann in Autumn.
PLOT - Television star Mary Ann Singleton returns to her friends in San Francisco, after discovering that her husband is cheating and that she has cancer. She moves in for an extended visit with her best friend, Michael Tolliver and Michael's much younger husband, Ben. During her stay, Mary Ann undergoes an operation and reconnects with several friends that she failed to keep in touch with during her successful life in New York. One of her biggest struggles, is reconnecting with her estranged daughter, the very bohemian Shawna. Will a much changed Mary Ann be welcomed back in her beloved San Francisco?
LIKE- Mary Ann in Autumn is a return to the format that made the original series so successful. Although Mary Ann is central to the story, there are several character subplots and plenty of intrigue and scandal. The story delves into serious topics, like aging, homelessness and gay marriage rights, but overall, it never takes itself too serious. At its core, this is a soap opera with lovable characters. It has several outlandish, but fun, plot twists.
DISLIKE - My only criticism, is that sometimes Maupin lacks subtlety. He takes themes and pounds the point, rather than finessing them into the story. On the other hand, this doesn't disconnect me from enjoying his stories, because there is nothing subtle about a soap opera, nor should there be.
RECOMMEND- Fans of the original series should love Mary Ann in Autumn. If you've not read the original books, do yourself a favor and go through the series before reading this one. A big part of the charm of Mary Ann in Autumn, is a return to the characters and a reminiscing of their days living at twenty-eight Barbary Lane.