This book broke my heart in the opening chapters. The fourth book in the Tales of the City series, I’ve followed the ups and downs of Mary Ann’s mysteries, Mrs. Madrigal’s relationship with her daughter, Jon and Michael’s on-again-off-again romance. I especially liked that one of the central issues in Michael and Jon’s relationship, apart from the obvious out-and-proud thing, was class, Jon being this buttoned-down professional and Michael being this let-it-all-hang-out, rollerskating gardener. And the way Jon looked after Michael when he contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and when Michael was attacked in a gay-bashing and Jon told him how much he meant to him.

And then in the opening of this book, in the middle of a conversation with Mary Ann about her work, he says he has something for her, and brings out a pair of rollerskates. Jon’s. And he’s just gone. This is 1983 and the AIDS epidemic is raging and he was there two years ago taking care of Michael after his attack and now he is just . . . gone. I stood there in the middle of my work listening to this on audiobook and I just burst into tears. I just began sobbing, hidden between two stacks of books in the library. I just gret.

I cannot imagine what it was like to read this in 1983. I’m reading it from the relative comfort of 2015, where HIV is a known entity, it can be treated and managed, and while it is dangerous, most people are living with HIV, not dying from it. I cannot imagine what it would be like to read this in 1983.

I just couldn’t get over it the whole book. Every time Jon’s name was mentioned. How suddenly he was there, then there was nothing left but his rollerskates, empty of him.

I would say this is the book in the Tales series where it graduates from being a fun silly soap opera to being a literary series where the writing should be taken seriously even when the plot isn’t (Mary Ann’s storyline, I’m looking at you).