Sure of You, which until the late 00's was the end of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, remains a painful book to read.
We're in 1988 San Francisco, with Michael and Thack now living together at the north end of the Castro, and Mary Ann and Brian still in their luxury condo atop the Summit, while Mrs. Madrigal still runs her house on Barbary Lane.
As we open, Michael and Brian are partners in ownership of Plant Parenthood, while Mary Ann has a morning show that's part Oprah and part Springer. Mrs. Madrigal is getting ready to go to Lesbos with her daughter Mona for a month or so.
Burke Andrew, last seen running from the cannibal Episcopals in book two, is back in town, offering Mary Ann a syndicated show based in New York.
What follows is the end of Brian and Mary Ann, mixed with Michael's fear about what his 600 T-cells mean in the face of something on his leg, and a few interludes on the beaches of Lesbos.
The problem is that we never really see what has become of Brian and Mary Ann, since their ending is almost bloodless, even as they hurt each other. We see Michael trying to play peacemaker, and Thack becoming more militant as the dying continues. (Seriously, he builds a trellis with hopes of getting pink roses to make a triangle shape on it.) We see Bill Rivera again, last seen in the bushes with Father Paddy at the end of book three.
We also get something similar to ________ ________ back in book three, as we meet the Rands, he a fashion designer, she an admin at the rehab clinic he went through. Rand, who raises money for AIDS with Liz Taylor, but professes his heterosexual love for his wife everywhere he can, is also sleeping with every man who will say yes. That friction between personal and public life really lies like a shark under the waters of the plot, as we discuss the end of Arch Gidde, who died suddenly of "Liver Cancer".
I'm happy we as a society have seemingly gone well beyond this "Hide the faggots in the closet" mentality, but here's a striking reminder of how we swept the dying under a rug and pretended they didn't exist. Something that many of us missed due to age or being dead.
I still cry at the end, even knowing how it all comes out. It hurts. It's not the howling pain that consumed book four, but more the pain and anger of those who have been denied any kind of dignity or acknowledgement of who they are or their personhood.