Armistead Maupin’s Babycakes, the fourth volume in his Tales of the City series about life in San Francisco, is about the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) crisis. Babycakes provides a psychological study of how individuals and families suffer and recover from the loss of loved ones. In this case, the family is one of choice rather than one of origin.
As the novel opens, the reader discovers that Michael Tolliver has recently lost his lover, Dr. Jon Fielding, to AIDS. One of the first thousand people in the United States to succumb to the disease, Jon withered to ninety pounds. He died, however, surrounded by his loving chosen family, including not only Michael but also his landlady Anna Madrigal and his friends Mona Ramsey, Brian Baxter, and Mary Ann Singleton.
Before Michael can begin his recovery, he is forced to face painful memories and emotions. That he and Jon were never sexually faithful to each other weighs heavily on Michael’s conscience. Worse, he feels that he never clearly communicated to Jon how much he loved him. Too often, they fought and turned to others for solace. These haunting thoughts make Michael feel helpless and despondent. In an effort to assuage the pain, he chooses to do volunteer work for an AIDS organization. His chosen family members even encourage Michael to start dating again, but emotionally he is far from ready to take this step.
In his recovery process, Michael...
(The entire section is 493 words.)