Set during the AIDS crisis in Chicago in the 1980s, The Great Believers is a book about the personal and the political, about love and loss, grief and guilt, memory and art. It’s an unsparing book that doesn’t shy away from the horrors of the epidemic or the holes it left in the lives of those who lived through it, but it’s also a joyful book about the power of friendship, family, and art to sustain us, even in the face of devastation. The Great Believers is an urgent and unrelentingly human story. Recommended By Tim B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction
Winner of the Stonewall Book Award
Shortlisted for the National Book Award
"A page turner...An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it's like to live during times of crisis." The New York Times Book Review
A dazzling novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris.
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
The Great Believers has become a critically acclaimed, indelible piece of literature; it was selected as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Buzzfeed Book of the Year, a Skimm Reads pick, and a pick for the New York Public Library's Best Books of the year.
"The Great Believers soars...magnificent...Makkai has full command of her multi-generational perspective, and by its end, The Great Believers offers a grand fusion of the past and the present, the public and the personal. It's remarkably alive despite all the loss it encompasses." Chicago Tribune
"Compulsively readable...a relentless engine mowing back and forth across decades, zooming in on subtlest physical and emotional nuances of dozens of characters, missing no chance to remind us what's at stake." San Francisco Chronicle
"The latest novel from the stunningly versatile Makkai...Focused on a group of friends, lovers, and family outcasts, the book highlights the way tragic illness shifts the courses of people's lives — and how its touch forever lingers on those left behind." Harper's Bazaar
"To believe in something is to have faith, and Makkai dispenses it fiercely, in defiance of understandable nihilism and despair — faith in what's right, in the good in others, in better outcomes, in time's ability not to heal but to make something new." National Book Review
About the Author
Rebecca Makkai is the author of The Borrower, The Hundred-Year House, which won the Novel of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, and Music for Wartime. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Harper's, and Tin House, among others. She lives outside Chicago with her husband and two daughters.