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The Great Believers
Cover of The Great Believers
The Great Believers
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

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 new 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 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.
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

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 new 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 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.
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  • From the cover 1985

    Twenty miles from here, twenty miles north, the funeral mass was starting. Yale checked his watch as they walked up Belden. He said to Charlie, "How empty do you think that church is?" Charlie said, "Let's not care."

    The closer they got to Richard's house, the more friends they spotted heading the same way. Some were dressed nicely, as if this were the funeral itself; others wore jeans, leather jackets. It must only be relatives up at the church, the parents' friends, the priest. If there were sandwiches laid out in some reception room, most were going to waste.

    Yale found the bulletin from last night's vigil in his pocket and folded it into something resembling the cootie catchers his childhood friends used to make on buses—the ones that told your fortune ("Famous!" or "Murdered!") when you opened a flap. This one had no flaps, but each quadrant bore words, some upside down, all truncated by the folds: "Father George H. Whitb"; "beloved son, brother, rest in"; "All things bright and"; "lieu of flowers, donatio." All of which, Yale supposed, did tell Nico's fortune. Nico had been bright and beautiful. Flowers would do no good.
    The houses on this street were tall, ornate. Pumpkins still out on every stoop but few carved faces—artful arrangements, rather, of gourds and Indian corn. Wrought iron fences, swinging gates. When they turned onto the walkway to Richard's (a noble brownstone sharing walls with noble neighbors), Charlie whispered: "His wife decorated the place. When he was married. In '72." Yale laughed at the worst possible moment, just as they passed a gravely smiling Richard holding open his own door. It was the idea of Richard living a hetero life in Lincoln Park with some decoratively inclined woman. Yale's image of it was slapstick: Richard stuffing a man into the closet when his wife dashed back for her Chanel clutch.

    Yale pulled himself together and turned back to Richard. He said, "You have a beautiful place." A wave of people came up behind them, pushing Yale and Charlie into the living room.

    Inside, the decor didn't scream 1972 so much as 1872: chintz sofas, velvety chairs with carved arms, oriental rugs. Yale felt Charlie squeeze his hand as they dove into the crowd.

    Nico had made it clear there was to be a party. "If I get to hang out as a ghost, you think I wanna see sobbing? I'll haunt you. You sit there crying, I'll throw a lamp across the room, okay? I'll shove a poker up your ass, and not in a good way." If he'd died just two days ago, they wouldn't have had it in them to follow through. But Nico died three weeks back, and the family delayed the vigil and funeral until his grandfather, the one no one had seen in twenty years, could fly in from Havana. Nico's mother was the product of a brief, pre-Castro marriage between a diplomat's daughter and a Cuban musician—and now this ancient Cuban man was crucial to the funeral planning, while Nico's lover of three years wasn't even welcome at the church tonight. Yale couldn't think about it or he'd fume, which wasn't what Nico wanted.

    In any case, they'd spent three weeks mourning and now Richard's house brimmed with forced festivity. There were Julian and Teddy, for instance, waving down from the second-story railing that encircled the room. Another floor rose above that, and an elaborate round skylight presided over the whole space. It was more of a cathedral than the church had been. Someone shrieked with laughter far too close to Yale's ear.

    Charlie said, "I believe we're meant to have a good time." Charlie's British accent, Yale was convinced, emerged more in...
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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 30, 2018
    Spanning 30 years and two continents, the latest from Makkai (Music for Wartime) is a striking, emotional journey through the 1980s AIDS crisis and its residual effects on the contemporary lives of survivors. In 1985 Chicago, 30-something Yale Tishman, a development director at a fledgling Northwestern University art gallery, works tirelessly to acquire a set of 1920s paintings that would put his workplace on the map. He watches his close-knit circle of friends die from AIDS, and once he learns that his longtime partner, Charlie, has tested positive after having an affair, Yale goes into a tailspin, worried he may also test positive for the virus. Meanwhile, in 2015, Fiona Marcus, the sister of one of Yale’s closest friends and mother hen of the 1980s group, travels to Paris in an attempt to reconnect with her adult daughter, Claire, who vanished into a cult years earlier. Staying with famed photographer Richard Campo, another member of the old Chicago gang, while searching, Fiona revisits her past and is forced to face memories long compartmentalized. As the two narratives intertwine, Makkai creates a powerful, unforgettable meditation, not on death, but rather on the power and gift of life. This novel will undoubtedly touch the hearts and minds of readers.

  • AudioFile Magazine This audiobook delves into the lives and minds of its characters with care. Two stories run parallel throughout the novel, one unfolding during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago and the other taking place in a more contemporary time in Paris. The earnestness of Michael Crouch's performance suits the tone of both narratives well. Crouch is expressive and empathetic, breathing life into the many characters without ever overacting or exaggerating accents. His timing is superb, rarely rushing or slowing the pace even when the novel takes circuitous routes. The audiobook does give one pause when it comes to following the transitions between time periods, especially early on. The patient listener is rewarded with a well-written and thoughtfully performed experience. L.B.F. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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