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The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai




Overview -
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK OF 2018
LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER
ALA CARNEGIE MEDAL WINNER
THE STONEWALL BOOK AWARD WINNER

Soon to Be a Major Television Event, optioned by Amy Poehler

"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.

Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, The Seattle Times, Bustle, Newsday, AM New York, BookPage, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lit Hub, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library

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Overview

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK OF 2018
LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER
ALA CARNEGIE MEDAL WINNER
THE STONEWALL BOOK AWARD WINNER

Soon to Be a Major Television Event, optioned by Amy Poehler

"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.

Named a Best Book of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, The Seattle Times, Bustle, Newsday, AM New York, BookPage, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lit Hub, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780735223523
  • ISBN-10: 0735223521
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Publish Date: June 2018
  • Page Count: 432
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.36 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

What we lose and how we survive

BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, July 2018

Rebecca Makkai is a skilled and versatile writer whose work often contains a quietly comic edge. Her ambitious new novel, The Great Believers, is a change of pace, exploring the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community in Chicago.

The novel begins in 1985. Nico Marcus has died from AIDS-related illnesses, and his parents have banned his partner and friends from attending the funeral. His friends have organized an unofficial wake at the home of local photographer Richard Campo, where gatherers include Yale Tishman, a development director at a university art gallery, and his partner Charlie Keene, editor and owner of the local gay newspaper. Also present is Nico’s fiercely loyal sister, Fiona. Her attachment to Nico’s circle has repercussions that echo decades later, as explored in the novel’s second storyline, set in 2015, which finds Fiona searching for her estranged daughter and staying with Richard, now a world-famous photographer living in Paris.

As is true of many novels with parallel narratives, one storyline initially seems more compelling than the other. Yale’s pursuit of a career-making donation of French art from an unlikely donor and the slow passage of the virus through his circle of friends overshadow the bumpy path of Fiona’s frantic, unfulfilling life. But when Fiona realizes the toll that being a caregiver has taken on her own life, the two stories come together in a way that honors the different forms of suffering on both sides.

As Makkai notes in the afterword, when a heterosexual woman writes a novel about AIDS, some may feel she has crossed “the line between allyship and appropriation.” But The Great Believers reminds us of the powerful connection between fiction and empathic imagination. Makkai does a superb job re-creating the atmosphere of bigotry and moral finger-pointing that existed even in a big city like Chicago during the early years of the epidemic, as well as the enormous changes wrought by compassionate activists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, artists and social workers who did so much to improve the lives and deaths of so many people, especially gay men.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

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