23 October 2013

Significant Others (Tales of the City, Book 5)


Synopsis: Tranquility reigns in the ancient redwood forest until a women-only music festival sets up camp downriver from an all-male retreat for the ruling class. Among those entangled in the ensuing mayhem are a lovesick nurseryman, a panic-stricken philanderer, and the world's most beautiful fat woman. SIGNIFICANT OTHERS is Armistead Maupin's cunningly observed meditation on marriage, friendship, and sexual nostalgia.

First line: Brian's internal clock almost always woke him at four fifty-six, giving him four whole minutes to luxuriate in the naked human body next to him.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 1994; 322 pages; bought at Half Price Books.

My thoughts: I read the first three books in this series in 2010, then finally read the fourth book, BABYCAKES, a few months ago. I've enjoyed all of them, and this one was no exception. I finished it awhile back and I don't even know why I've taken so long to write my review, but I may be a little fuzzy on the details now as my memory is not the best.

Of the main characters from previous books, the focus here is on Brian, Michael, DeDe and D'or. Brian and Mary Ann have moved to a fancy high rise up the hill, and I was disappointed in the person Mary Ann had become. As a local celebrity, she's very focused on her career and success, and the move was due to her desire to live in a setting that she deemed more appropriate for a woman in her position. Brian is a stay at home dad, and while he loves taking care of their daughter, he's become a little discontented. Then he learns that an old lover, a woman who he cheated on Mary Ann with in the past, has AIDS, and he becomes a big bundle of stress, worrying that he might be infected, and might have infected Mary Ann, and how to tell her. He decides not to until the results of his test come back, which means he needs to be away from her for those ten days as he has no way to explain to her why he can't have sex with her until he has his test results.

While hanging out with Michael, who is still mourning Jon, they meet Thack, who is in town on vacation. Michael and Thack dance around each other, but in the wake of the burgeoning AIDS epidemic Michael has been hesitant to be intimate with anyone. It's just too risky. However, he's really attracted to Thack, and when he and Brian decide to go to a friend's cabin in the woods, the perfect getaway for Brian, Michael invites Thack to go with them.

Meanwhile, DeDe and D'or head to Wimminwood, a women's music festival out in the middle of nowhere, while DeDe's stepfather, Booter, attends a men's retreat nearby. Pretty much all the women at Wimminwood are lesbians, while the men's retreat is full of rich entitled men where a gay man would probably not be openly welcomed. I never cared much for D'or in the previous books, and I didn't care much for her here either. Her character just grates on me, and she and DeDe seem to squabble a lot. I seriously thought they might end up splitting up.

A new character introduced is Wren Douglas, a plus size woman often referred to as the most beautiful fat woman. She's written a book celebrating being a fat woman in today's (well, the today of that time) world, and is in town to be interviewed by Mary Anne while on her book tour. She was a refreshing addition to the cast, getting involved with Booter, and then with Michael, Brian and Thack when Booter stashes her in a cabin nearby so he can sneak away from his retreat on occasion to visit her.

SIGNIFICANT OTHERS treats the threat of AIDS quite seriously without being heavy handed or too depressing. And at the very end, Mary Anne seemed to soften up a little, so I have hope that in the next book she'll come to her senses and realizes what a snob she's become. Maupin's writing is crisp and involving, and he's wonderful at dialogue. I have the next book, SURE OF YOU, waiting for me, thankfully.

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