Sure of You
|Series||Tales of the City|
|Published||1989 (Harper & Row)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Significant Others|
|Followed by||Michael Tolliver Lives|
The beloved characters are all twelve years older than their first appearances in 1976 in Tales. The story takes place in 1988 around the eve of the Presidential Election, three years after the previous book Significant Others. The book was written as the end to the Tales series and is the antithesis of the first book.
The 1970s are long gone, taking with them the fun and farce of youth. It's the height of the 1980s and things are much more serious. Sure of You shines a cold blue neon onto our formerly free spirits and is often criticised by readers for the resulting clarity and darkness. At the centre of the story is the need for surety in our loved ones and their inability to provide it. Abandonment occurs frequently throughout the novel.
3 years after the previous novel, the tenants of 28 Barbary Lane have all left to pursue their lives. Recognizing that it has been a long time since she took a vacation, the building's landlady, Anna Madrigal, decides to travel to Greece to meet up with her daughter, Mona Ramsey, on the island of Lesbos. During her time there, Anna develops a romantic fling with a local man, Stratos, while Mona explores the island and its lesbian pilgrims. Upon learning that Anna has contemplated staying in Greece, she urges her parent to sell 28 Barbary Lane and enjoy herself with Stratos.
In San Francisco, Mary Ann Singleton and her husband Brian Hawkins have moved to a high rise condo with their adopted daughter, Shawna. Mary Ann revels in her local stardom as the most recognized television talk-show host in San Francisco. However, the sudden call from her old boyfriend, television producer Burke Andrews, changes everything when he offers her a job as the host of a new national syndicated talk show in New York.
Meanwhile, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver and his boyfriend Thack Sweeney have purchased a home together. Michael continues to co-own his nursery, Plant Parenthood, with Brian, while monitoring his scheduled AZT dosages to keep his HIV infection in check. After the death of his father, Michael's conservative mother, Alice, has also begun contacting him frequently, developing a close relationship with Thack. Michael, however, resents the way she ignored his deceased lover, Jon, up until his death from AIDS, and her lack of true validation of his life in San Francisco. Thack urges Michael to become more involved in the gay political movement, especially ACT-UP, though Michael prefers to focus on what time he has left. Thack and Brian have become close, but Thack has developed a distaste for Mary Ann, to Michael's frustration. However, Michael admits that he feels Mary Ann has been keeping her distance, believing that she may be trying to spare herself the pain of him one day succumbing to AIDS as well.
Brian continues to immerse himself in his role as partner at the nursery and as a househusband to Mary Ann and father to Shawna. He remains unaware of Mary Ann's job offer until an obvious blind item in the local paper suggests that Mary Ann is being courted for New York. Mary Ann reveals to Michael that she plans to take the job, but has since fallen out of love with Brian. She hopes to get a divorce in order to spare Brian the embarrassment of moving from his home and friends to follow a relationship that she feels has outlived itself for both of them. She also feels that this way, Brian can continue his work at the nursery and take care of Shawna while she can seek the kind of relationship she has always wanted. She asks Michael to keep it a secret until she can break the news to him.
However, Brian is enthused by Mary Ann's movement upward and obliviously begins making plans to leave San Francisco and start up again in New York. While discussing the future with Michael, he mistakes Michael's discomfort over Mary Ann's secret for hurt over his leaving. At Brian's insistence, Michael reluctantly reveals Mary Ann's intentions, which devastates Brian. After he confronts her, Mary Ann is furious with Michael, who feels trapped between his friendship with both of them. Brian stays with Thack and Michael for the time being, while Mary Ann accepts the new position, and begins making preparations for her move to New York by the end of the month, including rubbing elbows with famous fashion designer, Russell Rand (relatively known to be a closeted homosexual by the LGBT community) and his celebrity wife, Chloe.
As Michael reflects more and more on the toll of the AIDS crisis, the deaths of his friends and former lover, and sees the continued deterioration of the once vibrant gay men in his community, he begins to wonder if he has the luxury to be unpolitical. A sudden purple growth on his leg underscores to him that he may not have much time left. Mary Ann invites him to a black-tie real estate open house to reconcile, where they run into the Rands. While alone, Russell makes a pass at Michael, who rebuffs him while calling Russell a coward for hiding his sexuality from the public, contributing to the stunted political progress the gay community in experiencing while trying to draw more attention and resources to the AIDS crisis. When Mary Ann learns of their altercation, she scolds Michael, only for him to angrily break from her, feeling that her interest in stardom has replaced her ability to recognize the social justice issues at hand.
Michael goes in for treatment and finds, to his relief, that the growth on his leg was a bruise and is not karposi sarcoma; he has not yet developed AIDS. He writes a letter to his mother, finally urging her to accept the life he has built in San Francisco and to respect his wishes, should he die before her. Anna Madrigal returns from Greece, and the three men have dinner with her. Anna consoles Brian and urges him to talk with Mary Ann one last time before she leaves and receive closure for his own well being. She also reveals that she has chosen to stay in San Francisco, despite her feelings for Stratos. As Mary Ann prepares to move, she spends the day with Shawna and gives her a suitcase full of her birth mother, Connie Bradshaw's, personal effects. Mary Ann reflects on her original distaste for Connie, and now finds the memories of their "tacky, Midwestern" origins in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio nostalgic. Brian returns and the two have a quiet reconciliation, while Brian urges Mary Ann to make peace with Michael before it's too late.
A few months afterward, Brian and Mary Ann have amicably divorced, Mary Ann's transition to New York has been a success, and Brian and Michael continue at the nursery, with Brian finding that he has new prospects as a once more single, available man.