The Great Believers

FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN FICTIONWINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALWINNER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION WINNER OF THE STONEWALL BOOK AWARDSHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDSoon To Be A Major Television Event, Optioned By Amy Poehler A Dazzling New Novel Of Friendship And Redemption In The Face Of Tragedy And Loss Set In 1980s Chicago And Contemporary ParisIn 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 New York Times Best 10 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

Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection MUSIC FOR WARITIME Viking, 2015 and the novels THE HUNDRED YEAR HOUSE and THE BORROWER Her short stories have appeared in four consecutive issues of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2008 2011 She lives in Chicago and Vermont.

★ The Great Believers PDF / Epub ✈ Author Rebecca Makkai –
  • Paperback
  • 448 pages
  • The Great Believers
  • Rebecca Makkai
  • English
  • 07 November 2018
  • 9780735223530

10 thoughts on “The Great Believers

  1. says:

    Only giving this five stars because I m married to the author s husband.

  2. says:

    In a weird way, I feel that this is the sweeping gay masterpiece that A Little Life should ve been It s a nice long read about a close knit group of gay friends and their straight allies that jumps back and forth between the height of the AIDS crisis in Chicago and present day Paris Makkai does a pretty clever thing here by drawing parallels between the Lost Generation from WWI and survivors of the AIDS crisis Ordinarily, when I read books that go back and forth between two narrators I tend to have a favorite, but in this case I didn t Both Fiona and Yale s parts address the central question of what happens to our communities when they are ravaged Who carries on the memories What does it mean to take on the burden of that mantle And how do families biological and chosen reconcile with lives that can be simultaneously too short and too long To say that I loved this book would be both an understatement and a misrepresentation I can t say that it was the best book that I ve ever read or the one that moved me the most Some parts like Yale s almost aggressive na vet or Claire s tenuously grounded animosity towards her mom troubled me from a craft perspective, but I somehow love it all the for its flaws It s almost like that friend who you know is kind of a boar but you enjoy spending time with anyway I loved the flaws here I was in the world fully If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for reviews

  3. says:

    I m between 3.5 and 4 stars, rounding up.At the start of The Great Believers , Rebecca Makkai s beautifully poignant yet meandering new novel, it is 1985, and Yale Tishman and his partner, Charlie, are preparing for the memorial service for Nico, a friend who has recently died of AIDS.The gay community in Chicago where they live has been devastated by this recently discovered disease, as have gay communities across the country The sense of loss they feel is just beginning to hit them, as they begin hearing and about people getting sick, people living in denial and fear, people simply disappearing.As much as the disease and people s attitudes towards it affect him, Yale has other things to focus on As the development director for a university art gallery, he stumbles on an unexpected windfall an elderly woman wants to bequeath her collection of 1920s artwork to the gallery But uncertainty about the artwork s authenticity and familial outrage at the potential value of a gift that could be given to strangers causes Yale and his colleagues stress than anticipated, at a time when emotions are running high in his relationship with Charlie as well.With the disease circling ever closer, Yale finds his life changing in many ways, and he begins relying and on Fiona, his friend Nico s younger sister Fiona is wise beyond her years, and finds herself acting as a companion of sorts, and ultimately, power of attorney, for many of her late brother s friends It s a role that impacts her greatly The thing is, the disease itself feels like a judgment We ve all got a little Jesse Helms on our shoulder, right If you got it from sleeping with a thousand guys, then it s a judgment on your promiscuity If you got it from sleeping with one guy once, that s almost worse, it s like a judgment on all of us, like the act itself is the problem and not the number of times you did it And if you got it because you thought you couldn t, it s a judgment on your hubris In a parallel storyline which takes place 30 years later, Fiona has traveled to Paris to try and find her estranged daughter, who had fled the U.S after joining a cult Fiona s relationship with her daughter has always been difficult, but she hopes to make peace with Claire She stays with an old friend from Chicago, Richard Campo, a photographer who made his name in the 1980s taking pictures of those in the community affected by AIDS, many of whom were his friends and former lovers Surrounded by memories both photographic and anecdotal, Fiona is haunted by the ghosts of her friends She comes to realize how much she sacrificed caring for and loving these men, sacrifices which affected her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, and her life But given the chance, would she do it over again, or would she put herself and her own life first Parts of this book were tremendously moving and poignant, reminding me both of the movie Longtime Companion and, at times, Tim Murphy s gorgeous novel, Christodora see my review , although this is very different Makkai did a phenomenal job capturing the emotions, the fears, the culture, and the challenges of those infected with AIDS in the early days of the disease.I enjoyed Fiona s character and her journey, but I could have done without her protracted search for her daughter and her interaction with another random character, although I like the way her modern day storyline intertwined with Yale s And while I loved Yale s character and could have read a book about him alone, I ll admit I could have done without the whole art thing, although it did set other plot points into motion.I was fortunate to come of age after AIDS had been discovered so I understood the risks and methods of prevention much better than those who came before me But that doesn t mean that life in the late 1980s and early 1990s weren t without fear and ignorance and prejudice toward those with the disease.Makkai is a tremendously talented writer, and I ve read a few of her previous books While this book frustrated me at times, I still really found it compelling and emotional, and feel like Makkai did an excellent job examining a bleak time in the LGBT community See all of my reviews at, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

  4. says:

    DNF p.148What, I hear you thinking, is wrong with this old man DNF a five star read Five star a DNF side eye The fact is that I lived this story I lost the love of my life to AIDS, and attended far too many funerals and memorial services before I was 30 So I really just can t finish the book I am not up for those wounding memories to be poked with a stick.The prose is exemplary in its economy and precision, both qualities I admire greatly Yale came fully into his manhood for me when, on the last page I read, he reflected even if the world wasn t always a good place, he reminded himself that he could trust his perceptions now Things were so often exactly what they seemed to be.Precisely, Yale, they so often are and one is always wise to remember that fact Occam proposed his razor for a reason It s an incisive haw insight.So while I fully support the praisemongers in their efforts to convince others to read this book, I am not possessed of the emotional horsepower to do it myself I encourage y all to take up the challenge and read it, tout de suite, and predict most will come away with a moving and fulfilling experience.

  5. says:

    4.5 The story opens with the death of a young gay man, named Nico Disowned by this family for his sexual preference, that is all but his younger sister, Fiona, who is with him until the end This is her introduction into the gay community, a community that will embrace her as she embraces them It is the eighties in Chicago, Boys town and the AIDS epidemic is in full swing We meet many of these young men, so many whose families have cut them loose See their fear, their sorrow as die, or find out they have the virus Fiona, is with many of them, caring for them when they cannot care for themselves I can t imagine watching everyone you love die, and we see how this affects Fiona in her life a dual story line with the second in 2015 as Fiona searches for her own grown daughter She finds Richard, a photographer, a survivor from the eighties, and there will be another to survive, a total surprise. Reminded me a little of A Little Life, the scope, the friends, losing so much Maybe because it was set in Chicago, all places I ve been, so could imagine this story visually.Belmont Rocks, Lincoln Park and the zoo, Halsted, and Ann Sathers restaurant, one of my favorites in the city In the Seventies, I hung in Old Town with a group of friends, two were gay, a couple, Jimmy and Max, they were wonderful, don t know what happened to them I got married, had children, lost touch I loved this novel, could fully embrace and connect with the story, a story that takes the reader fully into this time period The political ramifications of a government that was totally unconcerned, a public that turned their heads since this only affected gays, which proved not to be true The insurance companies, and the way they fought not to pay claims, citing preexisting conditions, so that many died in Cook County hospital Families, who cut their children off, many never speaking to them again We see the other side too, friends banding together, trying to be there for those who had nobody A mother who stays with her son through this terrible time So many of these characters we come to know intimately, especially Yale, who is our narrator along with Fiona Their is a secondary plot in the eighties that concerns Fiona s aunt and some valuable artwork It was a little drawn out but it does tie into the story and is something Yale is determined to complete Yale s sees it as a honor to a love that never stopped Northwestern and DePaul, places Yale works, DePaul a school my youngest daughter graduated from, know it well.In the present Richard and his photographic exhibit will bring the novel full circle, giving the many who had died, once again a voice Merging the past with the present This was Angela, Esil and my read for March I liked this one than they, found it both profound, touching and a story that needed to be told.ARC from Edelweiss.

  6. says:

    I read this novel when it was first published in 2018 and I was gobsmacked by how spectacular every moment was and by the rich panorama Rebecca Makkah created of Chicago in the 1980s and Paris in 2015.I was so enad with it and I missed the characters so much that last month I bought the audiobook so I could experience it once again.And I loved it even Michael Crouch s narration is spectacular so many voices, all distinct, and he captured beautifully the rhythms of Makkah s prose and its moments of spectacular ebullience and hope, and then its tragic despair and wistfulness.My God, this book and this audiobook is a gem.

  7. says:

    The Great Believers 3.5 stars rounded up 1980s Chicago, the devastating AIDS epidemic seen through the eyes of a group of gay friends as they slowly lose so many in their circle of friends, reflects the time in a realistic way Fiona who has lost her loving brother and many of their friends over the years travels in to Paris in 2015, connecting with Richard an old friend from those times, as she searches for her daughter and the grandchild she has not met The chapters alternate between these two time periods and these two places and it was good to have the connection of some of the same people so moving from one time to another felt seamless in ways.This is an important story depicting the devastation of the Aids epidemic, but there were so many times when I felt that the story dragged on, was too long, that I was not as captivated as I hoped I would be While I was definitely moved by the 1980s sections in the first half of the book, there were too many characters and I found it difficult to connect However, the last quarter of the book really changed my overall feelings about the story It was in these last chapters when we see the intimate thoughts and profound affect on one of the characters, Yale, that I became much connected emotionally The awfulness of the physical symptoms and the emotional toll were heartbreaking and Yale is a character that I felt I came to know in a much deeper way than others In the 2015 ending chapters, Richard s photographic show brought the two time frames together full circle in a perfect way Again I think it s an important story to tell and an important one to be read For that and the last part of the book I ll round up to 4 stars.I read this with with Diane and Esil Diane loved it most , I think, and had a special connection since she is from Chicago I received an advanced copy of this book from Viking through Edelweiss.

  8. says:

    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.Alternating between present day Paris and 80s Chicago, The Great Believers explores the impact and aftermath of the AIDS epidemic on a close knit group of friends living in Boystown The novel tells three stories, through two perspectives In the main plot, Yale Tishman struggles to cope with the illness and loss of his friends, and placate a jealous partner who fears Yale will leave him after the epidemic ends all the while, Yale, the development director for an art gallery, tries to acquire several high profile pieces from the great aunt of his best friend Fiona The great aunt, Nora, knew a wide array of famous artists of the 1910s, who died suddenly and brutally in WWI, and over the course of the novel, the tragic stories of the older generation are indirectly paralleled with those of Yale and his friends The final storyline follows Fiona as she tries to track down her estranged daughter in Paris and make sense of the fact that she, like Nora, has outlived all her closest friends from her twenties By the end I wasn t convinced Nora or her friends needed to be in this novel Her subplot slows the pace down, without adding much, and the connection between WWI and the AIDS epidemic is muddled at best But passages of The Great Believers are heart wrenching, and Yale s story at least is well structured and affecting.

  9. says:

    There s an important story here at least in the 1985 strand as AIDS cuts through the Chicago gay community but something about Makkai s style left me feeling mostly disengaged from it in emotional terms Sure, I had moments of anger as we witness a dead man s parents exclude his lover from the funeral, the horrible voyeurism that makes a thing of a man being gay, black, whatever But overall I was never able to get involved or attached to what is going on.Add to the style a baggy structure that flips between 1985 and 2015, and a whole other story that has little connection to the first one other than featuring the same character, and the book started to alienate me further.What is it about contemporary authors that they almost all seem to think that they need multiple narratives, times switches and excess baggage to create a novel A careful, focused, intimate story of the AIDS crisis and its effects might have made this palatable.

  10. says:

    When my best friend, Wade, died of complications of the AIDS virus in 1992, I was devastated and broken If it weren t for my fianc now husband , I may have spiraled into a dark, depressing space for a long time Makkai s book brought it all back to me the despair, the secrets, and the shame that was forced upon my friend from the virus and the politics of the time Even though the locale Chicago Paris in Makkai s novel is different than my own, and the plot of course sprang from the depth of her imagination, she captured the emotions and momentum of the time so well that I often twinned with the author s story Character driven, theme driven, and generous of spirit, The Great Believers is a fully realized work of art.The novel threads two timelines the 80s 90s AIDS epidemic era and 2015 We follow Fiona in both timelines, first a heartsick nineteen year old sister in the 80s and subsequently a mother estranged from her adult daughter in 2015 She never stopped grieving for her brother, Nico, for his untimely death from AIDS in 1985 The effect it had on her, while she stood by all who came after Nico s boyfriend and friends and friends of friends who succumbed, left her so consumed and damaged that she never felt whole again She couldn t sustain a marriage, and motherhood was fraught with mistakes In the 1980s, Yale, a development director of an art gallery, is about to pull off the collection of his dreams, just as he finds out his boyfriend has cheated on him and is carrying the virus, which now means possible doom for Yale, too He decides to focus on his work to escape his pain Nora, the elderly woman donating the 1920s pieces, seems a far cry from Yale and his personal problems, yet her romantic nature and story of loss all her friends that died or disappeared in Europe during the Great War resonates to the monumental losses of people dying from the virus The urgency and sorrow are wrapped up in the wreckage Many during the war were ravaged, sick from the flu epidemic, dead, or grieving alone And in the era of AIDS, as Nora says, I don t know how you can compare it to anything else I don t know how it s like anything other than war And Nora still hasn t gotten over her great love, Ranko, an obscure artist who painted some of the pieces that she is about to offer He died over sixty years ago, but he s alive in her heart She trusts Yale to preserve and display her collection.Fiona, on a tip, flies from Chicago to Paris to hopefully find her daughter, Claire, who she suspects now has a daughter of her own So many years of embittered anguish the misunderstandings, mischaracterized actions, conflicts, have damaged them both Fiona s inability to recover from Nico s death left her heart torn, like Nora s when Ranko died As one character says, when asked if love vanishes, I think that s the saddest thing in the world, the failure of love Not hatred, but the failure of love The Great Believers delivers a sprawling cast of characters The majority of them even secondary and tertiary characters, have singular features that give them dimension The past informs the present and quietly, through love, memories, and friendship, they open a window to redemption And art Makkai has a knack for penning each book so differently, and yet her theme of redemption through art is a bright beam that radiates like an eternal flame of hope and healing Read it and weep

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