Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers
by Rebecca Makkai

Publisher: Viking
Pages: 421
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  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.

Kritters Thoughts:  Two story lines that overlap from the beginning.  In 1985 in Chicago, Yale Tishman narrates the story and he is in the middle of the AIDS crisis as it takes many of his friends.  In 2015 Fiona, one of the sisters of one of the first AIDS victims in the 1985 storyline is in Paris trying to reconnect with her daughter.  

Usually when there are two storylines I like one more than the other and that was the case with this book.  I learned so much more and felt more invested in these characters and their story.  I know vague details about the AIDS epidemic in general, but am not sure I ever read a book and I really enjoyed learning more about the ins and outs and how much of a stigma these men felt even before they were diagnosed.  I also was intrigued to learn about the drama they had within the community and it wasn't all support and love.  

The other storyline was fine and the final pages of it made it feel mostly worth it, but I could have possibly done without it.  The one big thing that I liked was that it wasn't a mystery how these two storylines would affect each other.  The reader knows from the very beginning that the Fiona in 1985 is also the Fiona in 2015.  

This was my first Rebecca Makkai book and although I didn't love everything in this book, I am intrigued to read her backlist and see what else she has written about.  Have you read any of her backlist?  Where should I go next?

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Viking Penguin.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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