The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers

“A page turner...An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis." —New York Times Book Review.A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, by the acclaimed and award-winning author Rebecca MakkaiIn 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, b...

Details The Great Believers

TitleThe Great Believers
Release DateJun 19th, 2018
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Lgbt, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Great Believers

  • Rebecca Makkai
    Only giving this five stars because I'm married to the author's husband.
  • Larry H
    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...
  • Diane S ☔
    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 lo...
  • Angela M
    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 h...
  • Esil
    3.5 starsI really loved the themes running through The Great Believers, but I was a little less enthusiastic about the delivery.The story is told in two timelines. The first timeline runs from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, and it is focused on a group of characters affected by the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. The story is told from Yale’s perspective, who is seeing many of his friends getting sick and dying. Much of his story focuses on the brea...
  • Dan
    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...
  • switterbug (Betsey)
    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 fiancé (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 ...
  • Jessica
    "But what a burden, to be Horatio. To be the one with the memory." Like many others of a certain age who are fans of musical theater, I went through a phase in my late teens and early twenties where I thought Rent was the most amazing piece of art ever created. A lot about the show hasn’t aged well—just pay your rent, guys—but it’s still a moving remembrance of a very particular time and place: New York during the AIDS epidemic of the 198...
  • Martie Nees Record
    Genre: General FictionPublisher: Penguin Group VikingPub. Date: June 19, 2018 The Grim Reaper follows all in this novel. Think of Scrooge without a happy ending. The author, Rebecca Makkai, writes about the 1980s AIDS outbreak. The novel is set in the heart of Chicago in an area known as Boystown. There are two storylines, told in alternating chapters: one is in the 1980s and the other is in present time. The book opens in the past. We meet a clo...
  • Roman Clodia
    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 attache...
  • Emily May
    I found The Great Believers really dry and boring. It's about the AIDs epidemic and a group of gay friends, split between 1985 and 2015, and yet this subject that should have been deeply emotional left me cold. I didn't care for the characters and there were huge chunks that could have (and should have) been cut out.The Heart's Invisible Furies and The House of Impossible Beauties also look at this time period and do a much better job of it, in m...
  • Lydia
    I LOVE this book. It's heartbreaking and propulsive - I could not put it down, and was turning pages so fast it felt like I was reading a thriller. I loved all the characters, and thought the author did a wonderful job of the time change (going back in time then current day).
  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    “They were walking every day through streets where there had been a holocaust, a mass murder of neglect and antipathy.” I remember vividly that bleak period in the early 1980s when a spectrum of bizarre but fatal conditions started afflicting gay men. The tabloids were in their element, describing the mystery illnesses as a 'Gay Plague' while rallying their readers to demand all homosexuals be deported somewhere remote, away from 'decent peop...
  • Rebecca Foster
    I read the first 50 pages for a potential BookBrowse review, skimmed up to p. 172 and also skimmed the last few chapters. There’s a near-contemporary story line that’s not very compelling; while I enjoyed the 1980s strand, there are a lot of secondary characters we don’t get to know very well, plus the details of Yale’s art deal slow down the narrative. I really wanted to appreciate the book because I loved Makkai’s two previous novels ...
  • Tyler Goodson
    The Great Believers is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book.
  • Doug
    4.5, rounded up.I've read a lot of criticism that a 40 year old straight woman dares to write a book about the early years of the AIDS crisis, and the author acknowledges that others might claim inappropriate appropriation - but it is clear that not only has she done her homework, but her skill and imagination has covered any glaring gaps from not witnessing it first-hand. Two of the blurbs for the book use the term 'immersive' and it's an apt de...
  • Stephen Kiernan
    One of my favorite novels of the year. This book chronicles the arrival of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the early 80s. But don't let that scare you away. It is packed with humor (something funny on nearly every page), there are great characters and a wry sensibility from start to finish, and about a third of the book is actually set in present day, when a woman who was deep in AIDS activism is searching for her runaway daughter. Yes, there is ...
  • Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
    [4.5 stars]Thank you to Viking Books and Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book.The Great Believers is one of those “issue” book that makes the issue an organic part of the characters’ lives…and these are the types of “issue” books that work for me. It’s ultimately a gorgeous story about friendship in the face of disaster and is the kind of book you can just sink into. It’s got a little bit of The Heart’s Invisible Furies (...
  • Christopher Alonso
    Okay, I cried. A lot.
  • Jessica Sullivan
    This sprawling, intimate novel takes on the legacy of the AIDS crisis, focusing on one group of friends in Chicago in the 1980s.It’s 1985 and Yale Tishman’s friends are dying one by one. As his career at a Chicago art gallery begins to take off, his personal life is consumed with loss—not to mention the looming fear of getting sick himself. Yale throws himself into a new project, helping the aunt of one of his late friends Nico unveil a col...
  • Jerry Delaney
    What a wonderful book! Makkai is one of those authors I will follow for years no matter what she chooses to write about or how she chooses to express it. She chose to express this material by alternating chapters abouta group of gay male friends in Chicago in 1985 with chapters about a woman 2015 searching for her estranged daughter in Paris. I will admit I don't usually like that format of different stories in alternating chapters. I seldom find...
  • Jan
    A page-turning read and an important novel of the AIDS crisis, thankfully set in Chicago rather than New York or San Francisco. There's a lot of plot going on here, and not all the various timelines and characters totally work, but the writing is smooth, the characters complex, and some infuriating and highly relevant history brought to life. The result is a thoughtful, enjoyable reading journey despite tears along the way.
  • Maureen
    What can I say about this book that has not already been said? It is propulsively readable with character development and tone that will grab a hold of you and suck you out the other end feeling enriched, enlightened and ever so lucky to have had the experience of reading this amazing novel. Serious subjects that could be depressing but are not because of Makkai's precision with the written word. The intertwining and overlapping characters and pl...
  • Rick
    I think this book may have helpedto prepared me for death (I'm 70).I've become a great believerin the word wizardry of Rebecca Makkai.Best book in a long time, and am actually three pages from finishing, but I'mparalyzed with emotion I want to draw out.
  • Cheryl DeFranceschi
    This may well end up being my favorite book this year. Gorgeous and generous and filled to the brim with a story that my heart just leapt into. Sigh.
  • Emily
    My most anticipated release of 2018 also happens to be two other things: the 50th book I’ve read this year, and the best. I am a HUGE Rebecca Makkai fan, and a vocal one at that, so I was irrationally nervous to pick this up. I stared at the ARC for months, hoping it would live up to MUSIC FOR WARTIME, and now, of course, I regret all that waiting, because THE GREAT BELIEVERS blew past my greatest expectations. To say this novel is epic in scop...
  • Mainlinebooker
    Makkai creates a very personal tour of the AIDS crisis in the 80's in Chicago alternating with chapters occurring in Paris in 2015. Many books have been written about the dreadful trajectories for many AIDS patients at the beginning of this crossroad but few have had the skilled dialogue that takes one inside the minds and hearts of everyday life as individuals confront a disease that no one knew much about. It felt so intimate that I was sure Ma...
  • Robin Black
    I was lucky enough to see a pre-publication edition of this book. It's an absolute home run -with Makkai's characteristic insight and transporting prose. And of course this is a subject that is due for just this kind of in depth, compassionate treatment. I highly recommend.
  • Chris
    4.5 stars"We were the great believers. I have never cared for any men as much as for these who felt the first spring when I did, and saw death ahead, and we were reprieved—and who now walk the long stormy summer." F. Scott FitzgeraldThis book. This book. For anyone who read "A Little Life" and thought it was mediocre at best, poor at worst (2 stars from me), this book is for you. This book was everything I had hoped and wished that book had be...
  • Sara Leonard
    How do we keep the stories of our loved ones alive, when we're the only ones around to share them? This is the question posed by Makkai's breathtaking novel, alternating between the AIDS crisis in 1985 Chicago and Paris in 2015. The novel focuses on Yale, a young man devastated by the loss of countless friends while living in fear of his own future, and Fiona, a middle-aged woman still trying to figure out how to live with her own daughter after ...