Alive and well, a modern day gay Lazarus, Michael “Mouse” Tolliver gatecrashes this seventh instalment of the “Tales of the City” saga by telling the story from his own perspective. Having resigned himself to dying before 40, he finds himself defying the death sentence his HIV status once gave him. And now at 53, with 2 long-term relationships behind him, he finds himself embarking on a new life and finding a new way to live, one he thought was all but impossible. Through an internet dating site and a chance encounter at a restaurant (aided by über matchmaker Anna Madrigal) he meets his future husband, the daddy-chasing Ben.
Michael’s burgeoning, joyous relationship is contrasted by his mother’s lingering emphysema-fuelled demise. A visit home to his estranged family in Florida uncovers some secrets best leftuncovered, revealing another side to his mother, and making Michael decide who his true family is. A coincidental sexual encounter with Michael’s mother’s beautician is sweet but a bit contrived (Are guys in threesomes really that agonisingly polite?) and really just a vehicle to enable his family reconciliation that follows.
While Michael’s best friend Brian, Brian’s daughter Shawna, her mother Mary Ann and matriarch Mrs Madrigal make appearances, giving the book some of the classic “Tales of the City” feel, this tale is about Michael. Overall more heavy and thoughtful than the other stories, Maupin loses none of his wit and clever observations of life despite the personal nature of the book. There’s obviously a lot of Maupin in Michael – they both have much younger husbands met through online daddy-dating sites, both come from conservative Christian southern backgrounds and both sport silvering hair and
This uplifting story however, will give solace to those who have been shunned by their families, and hope for those starting over. It also gives cause to celebrate Armistead Maupin’s stories, celebrate the improvement in HIV treatment and most of all celebrate the fact that Michael Tolliver lives!