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Tales of the City #7

Michael Tolliver Lives

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Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably the most beloved gay character in fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his groundbreaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the 55-year-old gardener tell his story in his own voice.

Having survived the plague that took so many of his friends and lovers, Michael has learned to embrace the random pleasures of life, the tender alliances that sustain him in the hardest of times, Michael Tolliver Lives follows its protagonist as he finds love with a younger man, attends to his dying fundamentalist mother in Florida, and finally reaffirms his allegiance to a wise octogenarian who was once his landlady.

While Maupin insists that this book is not, strictly speaking, a continuation of Tales of the City, a reassuring number of familiar faces appear along the way. As usual, the author's mordant wit and ear for pitch-perfect dialogue serve every aspect of the story-- from the bawdy to the bittersweet. Michael Tolliver Lives is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully and the everyday miracles that somehow make that possible.

277 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Armistead Maupin

102 books1,689 followers
Armistead Maupin was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he served as a naval officer in the Mediterranean and with the River Patrol Force in Vietnam.

Maupin worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, before being assigned to the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press in 1971. In 1976 he launched his groundbreaking Tales of the City serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Maupin is the author of nine novels, including the six-volume Tales of the City series, Maybe the Moon, The Night Listener and, most recently, Michael Tolliver Lives. Three miniseries starring Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney were made from the first three Tales novels. The Night Listener became a feature film starring Robin Williams and Toni Collette.

He is currently writing a musical version of Tales of the City with Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears) and John Garden (aka JJ) of the disco and glam rock-inspired pop group Scissor Sisters. Tales will be directed by Jason Moore (Avenue Q and Shrek).

Maupin lives in San Francisco with his husband, Christopher Turner.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 710 reviews
Profile Image for Fabian.
947 reviews1,562 followers
July 17, 2020
So perhaps this is not number seven of the series. The writer certainly says it isn't. The novel concentrates solely on one member of that memorable crew of Bay Area misfits, the Sex and the City of Gay ol San Francisco: Michael Tolliver, the enigmatic and likable resident gay who is rather long in the tooth by now and is more settled in his ways (ironically, this one has the most explicit several-page sex scene of 'em all). I miss the others; the confetti-like Tales 1-6 had strands of plots all ranging in emotion, from deep pathos to snappy satire. The abundance of absurd "adventures" is what makes them so readable. Yeah, it's rather pretty sad to see this dude get capital O-ld.
Profile Image for Brandon Meredith.
97 reviews12 followers
June 4, 2009
Dear Mr. Maupin,

I want to thank you for your book "Michael Tolliver Lives." It's helped me understand a bit more the journey that lay ahead for me. You see, I'm a 28 year old gay guy. I've lived through some halcyon days of hedonism and beauty. These things may seem shallow, but as your character Mouse understands, there's a lot of depth in that kind of shallowness for a nice Southern boy from a religious family.

This last half of my 20's, though, has greeted me with an unrelenting thickening of my midsection and thinning of my hair. Whereas I was prepared for puberty when it hit because of all the books I had surreptitiously stolen glimpses of in public libraries, I was wholly unprepared for a new adult pubescence, taking me from boyish pupa to the current chrysalus state I'm in.

It's a state of flux. Changes are occuring that I thought would never happen to me. I haven't been ready to look like the man my genes have predestined me to become.

Your book that dwells on age and change has helped me get ready. And I thank you for that. I have a better idea, now, of what is to come. I have a better idea of how I can live out my conception of happiness in a body and mind that I haven't even met yet. Thank you.

Furthermore, thank you for your ealier books, too. The PBS miniseries "More Tales of the City" was my first encounter with gay men. When I was a child, I glimpsed, with a pounding heart, a few scenes from that show. I still remember the scene with Mouse and Jon, I believe, cavorting under a sheet, and afterwards lying so happily in each others arms. At the time, I didn't even know you could show something like that on TV!

Of course over time I came to know the characters of your books better (through reading as well as Netflix). So learning about their lives, but in the present time, really moved me. Now, I might be a big ole fag, but I don't cry much. "Michael Tolliver Lives" had me balling. Thank you for that, too.
5 reviews1 follower
May 25, 2012
Since this is my personal favorite of all the "Tales of the City" books, it really pisses me off to read all the negative reviews this one has gotten, mainly from peeps who were expecting yet another episodes in the "Tales" saga. Armistead Maupin confounds those expectations by totally going off format: it is narrated first person by Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, and so is a much more simpler and personal narrative than the other books. This is not meant to be a sprawling multi-story narrative, it's meant to be intimate and personal.

The things I found most annoying with the other books are largely absent here: Maupin's obsession with the upper classes which borders on outright snobbery, his propensity to reduce real events and problems into soap opera, the sense of humor that threatens to become so precious that it stops being funny, the ridiculous coincidences which puts too many demands on our willing suspension of belief - all these are replaced by a sincere personal story about people who have become gone from being iconic types to being authentic people.

There are genuine emotions here, I found all the tears and laughter in this book to be well earned.
Profile Image for Linda.
650 reviews28 followers
April 11, 2017
I first read the "Tales of the City" books when I was in my 20s in Columbus, Ohio in the 1990s. I loved the books! Such quick, fun reads. I was not unfamiliar with the thriving gay community in Columbus, and I don't remember being shocked at anything in the books aside from some of the fun story twists.

Now, I live in the San Francisco Bay area and I'm in my 50s (like Michael, who was in his 20s in the early books and is now 53). I was choosing a book with an LGBT main character for my book bingo square, and I came back to Armistead Maupin. I was delighted to see there was a newer (but still almost 10 years old) book in the series. This time the graphic sex did take me by surprise for a moment, but I really appreciate that the sex scenes don't take themselves too seriously (unlike the last book I read). "Hey, the nipple toys have arrived from eBay!"

But what this book is really about is much sweeter. Like all the "Tales" books, it's about the family you build, juxtaposed with the family you were born to. It's about life in all its ordinary moments of pleasure and sadness, about the curveballs life tosses you, and about how the best people in our lives support us through it all.

Armistead Maupin narrated the audio book, and it's perfect for the voice of Michael Tolliver right down to the almost indiscernible southern twang. Which makes sense, as it's semi-autobiographical. There's a cool little interview with the author at the end of the audio book.

Rounded up to 4 stars.
Profile Image for Mary.
45 reviews
September 3, 2007
I was at the library the other day and picked this up from the new books shelf on a whim. Reading it totally reminded me why I stopped reading the Tales of the City books after Babycakes. As much as I love the original ones, it seems like Armistead Maupin is the West Coast's equivalent of Candice Bushnell. Or maybe Sarah Jessica Parker. I say that because in the case of SatC, it actually started out being funny and thoughtful and ended up becoming a big ego-fest for the central star/character. As SJP's stock as a "fashionista" and "tastemaker" (I'm using quotes because I think she's got pretty questionable taste) rose, the focus of the stories became more centered on her supposedly adorable character and how everybody else thought she was so great. Barf. It's kind of the same way with TofC- it progressively became more about the supposedly adorable Mouse, rather than the relationships between the characters.

It also seemed with both narratives, the non-autobiographical characters who were interesting and funny and could potentially upstage the author's stand-in either got punished or relegated to the sidelines. Maupin seems to have a habit of either killing off the funniest, most colorful chracters (RIP Beecham Day and Mona Ramsey) or turning them into somebody who doesn't resemble the original character at all. Laura Linney gets thanked in the credits for this book, so maybe that's why he decides to bring back Mary Ann Singleton from banishment. He also creates a younger character who's an homage to Michelle Tea and supposedly a comment on how things have changed since then. Good lord is she an annoying cliche (of course he has to mention that she wears a Betty Page haircut) and sounds less like a sexual provacateur and more like your average student at Mills College. There's a coda at the end about her appearing on the Daily Show that was funny simply because it was so ridiculous - no way would somebody like that end up getting interviewed by Jon Stewart.

Anyhow, I guess reading this book reminded me of how annoyed I was by how the series turned out after the initial three books (and characters) that really meant a lot to me.
Profile Image for Lynn G..
292 reviews7 followers
August 4, 2015
Really a 3.5.
I read this book, primarily, for two reasons: 1) it takes place in San Francisco, my home town, and 2)it matched the criterion for one of my reading challenges; being by or about someone who identifies as GLBT.

At turns raunchy, wry, poignant, and honest, Michael Tolliver Lives was unexpected. Initially, I wasn't drawn in by the story or the main character, Michael Tolliver. I also found the raunchiness quotient to be excessive. However, the more I read the more I was engaged with the other characters and the story, and the less I was bothered by the raunchy factor; which was meant to be in-your-face.

Most unexpected were the poignant moments, possibly because much of the story was brash and a bit over the top.

The book is part of a series, with recurring characters, that I joined late in the game. I wish I had begun at the beginning so that I had the backstory on everyone and their histories. Reading Michael Tolliver Lives does make me want to read in order the other titles.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,513 followers
March 27, 2017

I always liked Mouse (Michael) in the Tales books and was so glad to find him here, thriving despite his HIV positive status that hung over him so dangerously in an earlier era. This book could be read alone, I believe, although the events of the past books certainly enrich it. This is a much more personal and intimate book than the Tales, written in the first person. It follows only Michael and not the full cast of characters, although many of them appear during the course of the book. I really enjoyed both Michael's narrative voice and the plot and people around him. The book presents a loving non-monogamous relationship in a way that is very real and works. Even if Michael's voice is occasionally a little wistful, perhaps because of the fact that his significantly younger and negative husband makes more use of that openness, none the less he seems content and finally where he belongs. (In a content as real, although different from, where he might have been had his lover Jon survived, all those years ago.) The views of his family and the decisions he makes create a story I will no doubt reread periodically for the pleasure of it.
Profile Image for Casey.
722 reviews59 followers
July 9, 2007
I read the series when I was way too young, and it basically blew my mind. Picture it: I was this little Catholic school girl reading about cock rings. COCK RINGS, people. You can imagine the educational experience this was. I credit Maupin's stories with giving me an open mind about all kinds of different lifestyles. And an open mind is not a common thing in my little Mayberry town.

But I guess I grew up, and sex is no longer this forbidden thing. Michael Tolliver Lives doesn't have anything new about it. In the opening scene, Michael runs into a guy he once shared a circle jerk with. Later, he and his husband decide a certain "Mr. Johnson" would be the perfect candidate for a threesome. In both of these, a young Casey would have read excitedly, looking over her shoulder to make sure her mom didn't catch her. Now, though, all I notice is the rather contrived dialogue and, well, the overall cheesiness. It's all a little too cutesy for me.

Although the end was sweet, circle jerks and cock rings just aren't enough any more.
Profile Image for Faith Reidenbach.
189 reviews12 followers
September 5, 2008
From an interview Maupin did with Lambda Book Report, I know he shares my dislike for "post-gay" books. True to his preference for gay authors who write gay books, this novel has hot gay male sex; characters reflecting on how their relationships with parents, each other, etc. are affected by their sexual orientation; and a little boy who's probably "pre-gay."

The book revisits all the Tales of the City characters we love (Maupin is being coy to claim it isn't part of the TOTC series) and is as exciting and fast-paced as ever. I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because another new character, who's Michael's new love and onstage a lot, is completely one-dimensional--doesn't have a single serious flaw. (He appears to be modeled on Maupin's current partner, who's much younger than he.) TOTC fans, particularly those of us pushing 50 and older, will be interested to see how the characters are aging. I hope I will forever remember Anna Madrigal's best line in this book, which goes something like "You don't have to keep up, dear, you just have to keep open."
Profile Image for Mark Hiser.
533 reviews15 followers
April 5, 2020
The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives. ----Armistead Maupin

Though different from the previous six novels in point of view, structure, and tone (at the time of publication Maupin said Michael Tolliver Lives is “NOT a sequel to Tales [of the City] and it's certainly not Book 7 in the series)” most fans still saw it as Book 7. I am one of those even though it is not necessary to have read the previous six novels.

Michael Tolliver Lives is also one of my favorites in the series partly because (I admit) I always had a bit of a crush on the protagonist and because its themes of impermanence, aging, and mortality are more meaningful since I am only a couple of years younger than Michael had he been a real person. As I reread it, the book also takes on more significance because I write this during the world health crisis that has much of the world feeling anxious and more aware of human mortality while people shelter-in-place as the numbers of people ill or dead increase exponentially.

I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short. ----Armistead Maupin

Maupin wrote Michael Tolliver Lives almost 18 years after he had apparently ended the series. By 2007, 33.2 million people were estimated to be living with HIV and 2.1 million people had died of AIDS. San Francisco had been one of the cities hardest hit. Also, by 2007, San Francisco was being gentrified and many long-time residents fund they could no longer afford to live in the city.

Michael Tolliver Lives is different from the others in the series in point of view. In this book, Michael interacts with the other characters while the previous novels felt more like there was an ensemble cast. We therefore get to experience Michael’s life as a survivor of HIV and as an aging gay man in a city far different from the one in which he experienced the 1970s and 80s. This point of view makes the novel more intimate tan the others and more realistic as Michael faces both the distressing realities of aging as well as those filled with grace.

Though he occasionally reflects upon the past and his surprise at not having died some twenty years earlier, Michael lives with Ben, a younger man he married when California legalized marriage equality, and embraces the small daily pleasures of life.

What largely drives the plot forward, however, is the news that his fundamentalist mother in Florida is gravely ill. Though Michael loved her, he knew she had never accepted him as a gay man. Michael, however, flies back to Orlando to see her and his brother who also had never accepted Michael’s being gay.

Some time after returning home to San Francisco, his biological mother’s hairdresser calls Michael to say his mother is dying. Then, just as Michael and his husband prepare to board the plane back to Orlando, Michael receives a call that his “chosen mother,” Anna Madrigal, age 85, has suffered a heart attack.

With that news, Michael Tolliver Lives continues to develop the themes of love, blood, and chosen family.

Maupin’s seventh novel in the Tales of the City series is both somber and joyous but not as humorous as some of the others. In fact, the reader may sometimes tear up. However, this novel is as full of love, optimism, and hope as the others and is one I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Dennis Holland.
204 reviews78 followers
June 22, 2022
Michael Tolliver Lives in my head as my boyfriend. Book 7 in this lovable series brings us even closer together—written in the first person for the first time by Michael Tolliver himself—and no matter how much time passes, he is forever dancing in his underpants.
Profile Image for Gill.
713 reviews22 followers
July 17, 2008
Like catching up with an old friend, it's an uplifting visit to the City by the Bay.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,887 reviews1,926 followers
June 26, 2021
Real Rating: 3.5* of five

 As I've grown older, I've learned that pleasures aren't always better when shared:
Over the next eight years, almost without noticing, I arrived at a quiet revelation. You could make a home by yourself. You could fill that home with friends and friendly strangers without someone sleeping next to you. You could tend your garden and cook your meals and find predictable pleasure in your own autonomy.
Still, I gave her a call, wondering if she might have lost someone herself, but our talk was limited to the surreal events we’d just watched on television. A crisis does draw people together, but rarely for the right reason. The old wounds flare up again soon enough; the bond lasts no longer than the terror.

It's a mistake, sometimes anyway, to attempt more than the most superficial reconnections to those who once were important to you. There are new faces at the table, and their novelty doesn't make their importance any the less for its fleetingness:
“Who’s Sally Bowles?” asked Ben.
I turned and looked at my younger, less theatrical half. “She used to be married to Ansel Adams.”
“You’re kidding?”
“Yes, I am,” I said.
And I’d like Ben there, of course, cuddling me into the void with the usual sweet assurances.

This sweet novel, a continuation of if not sequel to the greatly belovèd Tales of the City series, has done what Author Maupin's stories always do: reached back to me from the slight head start he has always had, assuring and reassuring me that the road *does* go on, the path stays open.

I value that so much. I overlook a certain lack of inspiration, a kind of well-trodden feel, that this story left me with. It's not like authors always need to break new ground, or even strive to, to make their stories delightful. But overlooking leaves a mark on one's pleasure.

Still...pleasure there was.
Profile Image for Dan.
Author 5 books444 followers
April 14, 2016
Michael Tolliver Lives is the rare book that I finished in one day. I think it's partly because I took a break from the series after Sure of You, and was so happy to be back among friends.

Unlike the previous six, this one is in the first person, and pretty much restricted to Michael's romance with the much younger Ben. The most graphic of the Tales books, Maupin fearlessly depicts the sex lives of older gay men here. I could see how some people would be squeamish reading about an intergenerational gay threesome, but like everything in the Tales series, it's handled appropriately and fits perfectly with the story. Anyway, there's plenty of other stuff going on, including a glimpse at Michael's family back in Orlando, and a where-are-they-now wrap up on a lot of the familiar characters.

Ultimately, I was happy to be reunited with my friends from 28 Barbary Lane, but I don't think this one is quite as good as the previous books in the series. I was happy to see Mary Ann back in the mix. Seems like she's figured out a lot about her life and isn't such a despicable person any more. Next one is all about her, so looking forward to the rehabilitation of Mary Ann Caruthers née Singleton.

If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
Profile Image for Karl.
72 reviews
February 17, 2017
It's not Shakespeare. But then sometimes neither is Shakespeare.
But it's familiar territory with old friends, friends who change, some for the better and some not so much. And some times friends, like ourselves, change along a horizontal line.

I read the first three books in my early twenties in the early eighties, playing catch up. Then as they released. So these are "people" I grew up with and learned from and helped give me an idea of the gay man I hoped to grow to be and whom I wanted to surround myself with.

So while the dialogue and scenarios in this book might seem sweet and cheesy and out of touch, for me they are very much in line with their development. And mine.

Like Michael I've been dismayed and delighted at the success I've had getting laid as a gay overweight man in my fifties, and finding love late in life, and falling away from a dear friend from my twenties only to have her resurface after decades (she and I were essentially Mouse and Mona). And losing friends to disease and having a lover be there to ease that pain.

It's not groundbreaking stuff. But it's the stuff of life told with a commonality and a sweetness and a familiarity. And I enjoyed revisiting my own memories as Michael relived his.

Profile Image for Sean Kennedy.
Author 56 books965 followers
November 24, 2010
I was so excited when I heard that TOTC would be continuing, and maybe anything would be disappointing living up to such a huge cultish reputation - but there is no denying that this book is. Michael Tolliver has basically morphed into a not-so-cunningly-disguised version of Maupin himself - and the character suffers for it. Once again, characters are killed off page, and we see more interesting characters sacrificed for more bland replacements. Plus, not wanting to sound prudish, but there's a level of tawdriness that has snuck into the series now - it doesn't help that 'Michael' in his first person narrative seems to be telling off the reader, dictating or chiding them for their 'outdated' or 'old fashioned' sense of morality. What happened to the Barbary Lane of old? Oh, that's right, in this book nobody lives there anymore. And it seems that the likable personalities have gone with it.

At least Mary Ann gets a hint of redemption at the end.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,764 reviews333 followers
August 8, 2018
Audiobook read by the author.

Eighteen years after “finishing” his Tales of the City Series in 1989, Maupin returned to the beloved characters and gave readers a 7th installment. NOTE: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the first six books in the series When the series ended, Michael had been diagnosed as HIV positive. In the ‘80s this was still considered a death sentence, but advances in treatment changed that, hence the title.

Michael has a landscaping business and a new husband. He’s dealing with what many middle-aged people face – the decline of our elderly parents. But he moves forward as best he can. Enjoying his work, his life and his friends. Mary Ann and Anna Madrigal make appearances as well, but the focus is really on Michael. I really like the way these characters support and love one another.

I’m not easily shocked, and have no illusions about gay sex, but there are a couple of sex scenes that made me a little uncomfortable. If you’re turned off by that, this may not be the book (or series) for you.

Maupin read the audiobook himself. He’s not a trained voice artist, but he’s so invested in these characters that I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. There’s a bonus interview with the author at the end of the audiobook. Maupin comments that he was “blushing furiously” when reading those aforementioned sex scenes.
Profile Image for audrey.
651 reviews63 followers
August 17, 2018
It *is* a little weird to suddenly be in Michael's head after six books, but no weirder than anything else he's experiencing as an HIV-positive thirty-year resident of San Francisco. It made sense. And the plot made sense. I wanted more Mona still, and while I totally love Jake I'm not sold on Ben. But the story made me cry twice, and I really liked the character developments for the rest of Barbary Lane's erstwhile denizens, so that's enough for one installment, I'd say.
Profile Image for Alex.
719 reviews32 followers
January 23, 2014
I know that an exclamation mark would be hyperbolic, but I think that, after an 18 year absence, "Michael Tolliver Lives!" is an appropriate title. Abandoned by his author in 1989, Michael Tolliver has been up to a lot in his absence. This wasn't originally going to be a Tales of the city book, but Maupin realised that Michael Tolliver was the perfect vehicle for an ageing gay man.

This explains why it's written in the first person, and how everything seems to grow organically from that original concept. It can be dangerous resurrecting beloved characters after a long time away, but Maupin has let them all live and die natural lives in the interim.

The shift from third person to the first is not without its problems: unlike The Night Listener, where the narrator was addressing his hypothetical radio audience, there is no indication of whom Michael is speaking to. This is not normally a problem with other first person books, but it's clear that Michael is addressing someone, and I refuse to believe it's me. He reminds you of things a couple of times and he explains things that don't strictly need explanation.

Because we're presented the exclusive viewpoint of Michael, other characters - Brian in particular - get short shrift from Maupin. This isn't a failing as much as it is a necessary evil. Just because one wants an author to overstuff a book doesn't mean that they should. Maupin shows more restraint here than he has previously.

Of course, the other side of the double edged sword is that the exercise is rather more personal than any previous entry in the Tales canon. Rather like Maupin's prior effort, The Night Listener, I found myself tearing up or even outright crying at times in the last fifty pages.

I welcomed this book because I considered Sure of You a huge downer to end the series on. Maupin doesn't idolise his characters, and so they sometimes make horrible decisions and become people that you can easily fall out of love with - as I did with several. The character arcs from book to book actually made me worry about reading on for fear that the characters - not Maupin - would compromise themselves.

Michael Tolliver Lives is an invigorating experience. It sounds stupid, but it is "life-affirming". Maupin writes death and loss very well, having experienced it too often first hand (this series, after all, spans pre-AIDS society to "post"), but he also writes survival. His honesty is brutal, and I don't agree with every stance that Michael takes, but I don't have to. I'm touched in such a way that I don't have to internalise the whole experience. Ultimately, Michael Tolliver Lives, despite the way that it treats some characters (Mona!), feels like more of a gift from Maupin than anything else.

Mary Ann in Autumn, only recently published, promises to be a return to the original format of sprawling and unlikely storylines that intertwine in vague and strange ways. Mary Ann's return as a focal character might set everything that was wrong in Sure of You right once and for all.
March 1, 2014
Through-out the 80s, I devoured the first six Tales of the City books, while in my 20's, and mostly while living in San Francisco. I first came across part of the series through the Chronicle, where Maupin wrote serialized installments of "Tales". I went on to read Maybe The Moon, skipped The Night Listener and forgot about the world of 28 Barbary Lane until recently, with the publication of The Days of Anna Madrigal. I had some spaces to fill in, so I picked up a copy of Michael Tolliver Lives and Mary Ann in Autumn.

I've really enjoyed revisiting Michael and many of the characters I loved once upon a time in the earlier novels. And, Michael and I are the same age! From the book jacket, "Michael Tolliver Lives is a novel about the act of growing older joyfully and the everyday miracles that somehow make that possible." Yes it is and I am grateful for Armistead Maupin's insightful storytelling. Now, to find out what that Mary Ann has been up to...
Profile Image for Andrew Chidzey.
327 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2017
How delightful to read this latest Tales volume while holidaying in San Francisco - this story focuses on my favourite character Michael aka Mouse. Michael has survived the AIDS plague that ravished his friends and the community and finally found love. The story has all the classic components of Maupin's joyful prose: familiar faces, highs, lows, drama and sabotage all set against the picturesque back drop of the city by the bay. I could read this series forever alas there are only two volumes remaining. Surely time for more Armistead?!
Profile Image for Ruthiella.
1,461 reviews49 followers
August 4, 2017
OMG, what happened to the sweet Mouse of the previous books? He got old, sure, but he also got BORING. I also don’t understand why this is told in the first person singular, none of the other books were…why? And how did Michael morph from twink to bear?

Sorry, but this book was dull. I don’t think that Maupin is the best wordsmith, but he did write some wicked stories that were just BONKERS. There is nothing really out there in this book: no cannibals, no militant lesbians, no mild mannered pornographers, just a lame ABC afterschool special about who your real family is which could have been encapsulated in a few paragraphs woven through a more exciting book that had, I don’t know…maybe a furry convention or a fake kidnapping or something.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
4 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2009
I can't say enough good things about this book. It was phenomenal. There were times when I had to put the book down because I was crying too hard to read, and other times when it got put down so that I could stop laughing. This was an amazing come back to Michael Tolliver.
Profile Image for Robin Reynolds.
765 reviews37 followers
March 12, 2018
I loved the first five Tales of the City books, but the sixth book was a disappointment for me. I did not like the person Mary Ann had become after being a local celebrity went to her head. By the end of the book I quite actively disliked her. But this seventh book, set twenty years later, is about Michael, and was just as enthralling as the first five books.

Unlike previous books, this one is just Michael's story, and the narrative is even in first person, his point of view. Other characters are still around of course – best friend Brian and his (and Mary Ann's) now grown daughter, Shawna, and an elderly Anna Madrigal. Thack is long gone, but Michael is still living in the same house, and is now married to the sweet and much younger Ben.

Michael tells us his story with wit and deprecation. We follow him to Florida, where he visits his ailing mother and ultra-religious brother and sister-in-law. Michael refers to them as the biologicals, and his other, more accepting and loving family, the characters mentioned above, as the logicals, a term I love.

My favorite quote in the book:
As she fiddled with the piping on the slipcover I could see that her hands were the only place where her age was evident. I've noticed this about myself as well. We can fool ourselves about our changing faces, but our hands creep up on us. One day we look down at them and realize they belong to our grandparents.
I had this exact revelation a couple of years ago, when I looked down one day and saw my grandmother's hand. Which overjoyed me, as I adored her and miss her.

Mary Ann is now living in Connecticut with her second husband, but she does make a brief appearance towards the end of the book, where she and Michael have an awkward and stilted reunion (and under trying circumstances), and then she breaks down and cries and insinuates that there was more to her moving away than the advancement of her career. She's not redeemed in my eyes, and I'm hesitant to pick up the next book, MARY ANN IN AUTUMN. But I do look forward to the last book, THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL, and I cannot skip a book in a series, so I'm just going to have to trust Mr. Maupin to bring Mary Ann full circle and make me like her again.

I zipped through this book in a day and a half, giving up some sleep to do so, something I don't have the energy for very often. But it was that good.
Profile Image for Carlos Mock.
718 reviews4 followers
September 30, 2020
Michael Tolliver Lives: A Novel Book 7 in The Tales of the City Saga by Armistead Maupin

"The only difference between comedy and tragedy is where you end the story." p. 251

The first thing to know about the book is that it's 18 years after book 6. The second is that it's written from the first-person point of view - the first time Maupin uses this form of narration.

We're in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, the only difference is that men are now surviving and living with it as a chronic disease: "After thirty years in the city, it's nice to be reminded that I'm still glad to be here, still glad to belong to this sweet confederacy of survivors, where men meet in front of the hardware store and talk of love and death and circle jerks as if they were discussing the weather." p. 4

Michael is now 54 y/o and is married to a man 21 years his junior: Benjamin (Ben) McKenna. Michael is suffering from arthritis and other old men ailments - he needs Viagra to perform. He has a landscaping business and uses Jake Greenfiels - a FTM trans person as his partner.

Brian Hawkins still owns the nursery - Plant Parenthood - and his daughter, Shawna is a queer liberal activist with her own blog and book deal.

Michael has to deal with her mother - Alice - end of life crisis - which brings about issues with Michael's brother, Irwin - and Irwin's wife, Lenore.

I was struck by Michael's assessment of his "biological" mother vs Anna Madrigal - the old landlady at 28 Barbary Lane who practically raised him in his life as a gay man. At one point, he's forced to chose between them. This touched me personally since I felt the same about my own biological mother: "She's spent all that time trying not to know who I am, and now she's entrusting me with her death. I should feel touched or something, but I don't. I don't feel much of anything. I let her go a long time ago. I've done my mourning already." p 116.

For those of us who were used to the first six books, this one is quite different. I can see why so many fans feel betrayed. I, for one, enjoyed the book. It touched me, just like the first six did.

Like all the other books in the series, this is a stand-alone book. But references to all prior six books abound and I would recommend you read the first six books before reading this one.
Profile Image for Paul Jr..
Author 11 books68 followers
November 8, 2010
I found an old review of this on one of my blogs, so I thought I'd post it.

There be MAJOR spoilers.

July 2007: After some intense weeks, I've used the past couple days to devour Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives, which Maupin states in not the next of the Tales of the City books, but very much is...and very much isn't.

Like all of Maupin's Tales books, MTL is a breezy read (combined total reading time = less than 24 hours, probably), and is most certainly comfort food for those of us who have read all of the Tales books. It transports us back to our 28 Barbary Lane family, as disjointed as it has become, and although it feels almost anachronistic to see these characters in the aughts rather than in the 70s and 80s where we grew up with them, it is like being back in the loving family we've always known was there.

So, do you have to have read the other books to get this one. Not really, but the journey through MTL will certainly be more fun if you have, as Maupin weaves in tales from the other books, making us feel as if we are not only looking back at Michael "Mouse" Tolliver's life, but reliving our own memories of those fabled times. I think you'll get this feeling if you're only familiar with the mini-series of the first books, but you will miss some stuff that didn't occur in those mini-series.

So now there be spoilers, so look away, Dorothy, look away:

Michael Tolliver does indeed live, having survived the AIDS epidemic -- and what he thought was his own HIV death sentence -- to ease his way into his impending sixties. It is a little unsettling to think of Mouse as sixty, and one certainly sees Maupin when one imagines what he looks like, but when you hear the lilt of his voice and his use of "Babycakes," Maupin fades away.

Mouse is a very interesting guy in his late fifties, matured and more sensible, but still suffering (albeit a little less) from his insecurities. The addition of Ben, a man who is a "whole person younger" but loves Mouse deeply, gives a nice balance to Mouse and their relationship -- while occasionally an "open" one -- is immensely stable.

Mrs. Madrigal is still around and an integral part of the book. Now in her late 80s, she is more wobbly and has long since moved out of Barbary Lane. She requires help, and a Trans employee of Mouse's lives in the same building and takes care of her to some degree. It's odd to see this woman older, but she is definitely the same Mrs. Madrigal, a tough cookie who knows how to call 'em like she sees 'em.

Brian Hawkins and his adult daughter are there as well, though Brian's story (especially his quest for Ishi's Cave) seems to have been given short shrift. This doesn't really bother me that much as -- like Mary Anne had -- I always found Brian to be the least interesting of the Barbary Lane characters. His grown daughter, though, fills an integral void in the old Barbary Lane set of characters.

My favorite character Mona Ramsey, we learn, died of cancer years ago. Mona -- Mrs. Madrigal's daughter -- was a free spirit, trouble by her existence most of the time, but an endearing one. When I learned of Mona's death, I was heartbroken that she would not make an appearance. However, Shawna, Brian's daughter, is a free spirit of her own and almost seems an amalgam of all things good about Mona and all things that were good about Shawna's not-so-natural mother, Mary Anne. She is a great addition and keeps the spirit of Mona close at hand.

The plot basically centers around the impending death of Mouse's mother, an ultra-conservative South Florida bible-thumper who once was heavily into Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign. In some ways, Mouse's mother is almost a right-wing version of Mrs. Madrigal's mother, Mother Mucca, who passed away a few books back. Michael's mother is spunky and smart-mouthed, and even though she has never approved of Mouse's "lifestyle," Maupin does manage to convey a sense of love between the two. The dynamic between Mouse's mother, his own husband Ben, his brother and his brother's Jesus freak wife, is intensely interesting. The interactions are honest, and the dialogue is only as Maupin can write...witty, but utterly lifelike. There are a few major surprises in this family dynamic, but they are ones to be savored and not revealed here.

When his mother takes a turn for the worse (with only days to live), Mouse and Ben go to SFO to get on a plane. Luckily, the plane is delayed by weather, and Mouse receives a call that Mrs. Madrigal has had a heart attack. There is no hesitation when Mouse reaches the moment of decision as to which Mother's bedside he must be at, and he stays in San Francisco to be with -- and mourn -- the mother he has always really known, Mrs. Madrigal. The moment he stops in the airport and breaks down in tears for his "mother," we know it isn't the one in Florida.

The coma Mrs. Madrigal has fallen into allows Maupin the time to get Mary Ann back into the picture. Mary Ann -- who selfishly left Brian and Shawna many years ago to pursue her career -- arrives and though her meeting with Brian is strained, they all know they are there for another reason. Maupin here expertly redeems Mary Ann to an extent...brings her a bit more back to who she was before she became the career-driven woman who, really, I ended up not liking at all. That's not true, I didn't like who Mary Anne had become.

But with the addition of Mary Ann, Maupin has made damn sure that all the surviving tenants of 28 Barbary Lane -- and the "new" tenants of Madrigal's post-Barbary life -- are there to celebrate the passing of Mrs. Madrigal. But there is a surprise...Mrs. Madrigal -- in true Madrigal form -- doesn't die. She wakes up from her coma, proclaiming "You'll never guess where I've been, dears."

If there is any qualm I have with this book, it is in this turn of events. Believe it or not, I'm a bit disheartened that Mrs. Madrigal survived. The books was so expertly built to say goodbye -- in a very loving way -- to the tenants of 28 Barbary Lane and, presumably, the series, Mrs. Madrigal's survival feels almost like an editor's note ("You can't kill Mrs. Madrigal!"). On the other hand, her survival is typical Madrigal. So, I'm torn on this ending.

What I didn't care for was the last chapter. It should have put some type of button on the whole thing, but it felt rather tacked on to me. I wasn't left with a sense of nostalgia or love. In fact, I turned the page expecting to read the final sentence of the book...and I got the acknowledgments. Most of Maupin's books end with an expertly crafted sentence that imbues you with some feeling or another. This one, curiously, did not, and that let me down a bit.

But, again, an excellent read. Maupin has given us back our Barbary Lane family, created a new one, and let us look back lovingly on lives we as the readers are absolutely sure we lived right along with Mouse and Mary Ann and Brian and Mona and the wonderful Mrs. Madrigal. If this is the last of the books in the Tales series...well, I'll miss them, but this is a wonderful ending to all of it. Just remember...there is no Fifth Destination.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for diario_de_um_leitor_pjv .
434 reviews25 followers
April 20, 2022
Armistead Maupin é um dos mais destacados escritores gays norte americanos. Jornalista desde o início dos anos setenta, momento em que se mudou para a cidade de São Francisco, tem vindo a publicar uma destacada obra.
Desde o final dos anos 70 que retrata as vivências da "Meca gay" demonstrando a importância das sociabilidade homossexuais na construção e na fruição daquele espaço urbano. Esse retrato corresponde a uma tetralogia chamada "Histórias de São Francisco" que é um dos campeões de vendas de livros sobre temática LGBTI.

"Michael Tolliver está vivo" é um romance de 2007 em que Maupin retrata o envelhecimento da geração fundadora do movimento LGBTI. É um livro leve e brincalhão onde o autor problematiza - com farpas irónicas - a contemporaneidade da mesma cidade de São Francisco, reforçando, uma vez mais, a importância da redes de amizade e das famílias de escolha como espaços de segurança e abrigo. Em contraponto não deixa de desmascarar a homofobia familiar (das famílias de sangue) e as hipocrisias da sociedade norte-americana.

Para quem gosta de pensar sobre o mundo onde vivemos enquanto ri com algumas piadas certeiras este é um livro certeiro.
Profile Image for Alex Vogel.
Author 1 book16 followers
February 5, 2022
This was as charming read, mostly light-hearted despite the melancholy undertones. The transitory and fleeting quality of life felt like the underlying topic of the book.

Michael Tolliver, the 55-year old main protagonist, is easy to warm up to. The writing is engaging and effortless. It's a bitter-sweet story that celebrates the 'chosen family' as opposed to the 'biologicals'. It has an autobiographical and positively mundane feel. I found it quite funny at times and quite comforting. I liked how naturally Maupin deals with sex in general and depicts sexual activity. Though I could have done with a more in-depth-characterization of Ben, the protagonist's husband.

I was entertained throughout the entire book, had several belly-laughs and towards the end I even briefly cried. In the aftermath I dreamed a very sad dream about my mother, if you must know, which wasn't too surprising, given the topic of the closing chapters. And while the ending of the book was well timed very well, I would have loved to read on and stay a little longer in Michael Tollivers world.
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