Monday, February 10, 2014

Abyssinia

I posted about Tales of the City back in October not long after finding out that Book 9, The Days of Anna Madrigal, would be released this year. Happily, the book indeed got released, and I finished the book Sunday on my lunch break. Amis tears. If I were a drag queen, my mascara would be running.

It's a very touching book and a fitting end to a series that started in the 70s and has continued sporadically since then.

As Days starts, we find the nonagenarian Mrs. Madrigal living quietly in San Francisco, being helped by FTM trans person Jake (who's hysterectomy was one of the plots in the last book, Mary Ann in Autumn). A phone call from Brian Hawkins informs us that he's found a new woman to ride around in his Winnebago cross country. We find out shortly thereafter that this mystery woman is someone we met back in Significant Others. Wren Douglas, the World's Most Beautiful Fat Woman, as she used to be known, is now Mrs. Brian Hawkins. Brian and Wren end up taking Mrs. Madrigal across state borders to Winnemucca, Nevada, where a young Mrs. Madrigal grew up as Andy Ramsey at the Blue Moon Brothel.

In the mean time, Jake, Amos (Jake's cis-gendered partner), Shawna (Brian and Mary Ann's adopted daughter), Michael, and Ben (Michael's much younger boyfriend) plot a trip further south in Nevada to Burning Man. Jake has created an art car to honor Mrs. Madrigal as a pioneer in the trans community. Shawna wants to get pregnant at Burning Man, preferably with Ben's sperm. Michale is worried he's too old and fat to enjoy himself. He's also grossed out by Shawna's sperm request.

And between all of these plots, Mrs. Madrigal keeps flashing back to being 16 at the Blue Moon, revealing her past. And oh wow, what a humdinger that is. Margaret, Mother Mucca's good friend and older call girl, helps Andy find himself, usually with turquoise pedicures and shimmering nightgowns. We meet Lasko, the handsome Basque and Mexican boy who works at the local Pharmacy, when not in school or helping at his parents' restaurant. Andy had a bit of a crush on Lasko, who he once watched running in native costume at a festival. Lasko...oh Lasko. The love story here is like so many young loves short and very poignant. While I can't say I ever went to quite the extremes Andy and Lasko did, I understand all too well the desire to hurt someone you care about because you yourself are hurting. I'm not sure I needed that reminder of my misspent youth.

At Burning Man itself, we find out Mary Ann is also there, eventually bringing back some of the magic from the earlier books, where coincidence abounds. (There are a few passages where Brian tried to explain the magic of coincidence that permeates the series. While it's slightly unbelievable, it's also quite charming.) And the serendipity effect is still blossoming here, what with Jake's trying to be ex-gay boyfriend from the last book being strongly hinted at being dressed as a satyr at Burning Man, as well as pretty much falling in at all the right places towards the climax of the novel.

One thing I both loved and hated was the ending. It's quite enigmatic. While I assume one thing, it's written in such a way that many other things might also be true. And, as sad as I am that the series in ending (again), this is as good of an ending as we could have wished for. At least it doesn't end with a sympathetic character going off the deep end and moving to New York.