A welcome, if different, "continuation" of the Tales..,
This review is from: Michael Tolliver Lives (Distribution) (Paperback)Maupin's return to his most well known creations, the characters fleshed out in the "Tales of The City" sextet, is a little bittersweet to say the least. Like old friends visiting after many years - it's great to see them, but you wonder if you feel the same way about them. I approached "Michael Tolliver Lives" with a little of this apprehension, and for the most part it was unwarranted. Yet, by the end, I felt as if I hadn't quite read another addition to the "Tales of the City" collection, but a stand alone novel, slightly disconnected from the universe the reader knows and loves. Maybe that's what Maupin was aiming for - if so it certainly succeeded.
The focus of this book is Michael 'Mouse' Tolliver, as if the title doesn't give this away. Living with getting older and coping with HIV, Mouse's life has taken an unexpected turn - despite the predictions, he's still alive. Even more importantly, he's in love. Unlike the "prequels", Maupin gives Mouse the narrative reins here, and the book both benefits and suffers from that. It is much more personal, and intimate a story with added focus on Mouse's family matters and his new partner, Ben. Maupin weaves a rich tapestry of plot points as is usual in the series. However the down side of this is that those who seek a continuation of "Tales" may be disappointed by how their favourite characters are represented in this book, but the moments where these characters do appear gives a nice sense of completeness to the proceedings.
The relentless control of the narrative that Maupin has ceded to Michael means that some long-term characters seem to be mere after-thoughts, and even those which feature heavily such as Brian don't seem to have depth or importance to the plot, possibly due to a little too much emphasis being placed on characters such as Ben. Maupin, however, excels as always at introducing some new characters and making us feel like we've known them for years within minutes of reading about them and this again helps us connect this latest installment to its predecessors.
All in all, I heartily recommend Michael Tolliver Lives. For those who haven't read the "Tales of the City" series, the book is still open and accessible as a stand alone work about love, life and learning to appreciate the smaller things and those who are close to us. For those, like me, who are longer term acquaintances of the characters it is a welcome return of old friends, no matter what the small flaws may be inherent within it. A recommended read for both types of readers.