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The Great Believers

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Hardcover
Jun 19, 2018 | 432 Pages
See All Formats (3) +
  • Paperback $16.00

    Jun 04, 2019 | 448 Pages

  • Hardcover $27.00

    Jun 19, 2018 | 432 Pages

  • Ebook $11.99

    Jun 19, 2018 | 448 Pages

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Praise

“Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers is a page turner… among the first novels to chronicle the AIDS epidemic from its initial outbreak to the present—among the first to convey the terrors and tragedies of the epidemic’s early years as well as its course and repercussions…An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Makkai knits themes of loss, betrayal, friendship and survival into a powerful story of people struggling to keep their humanity in dire circumstances.”—People Magazine

“Cultural revolutions of the past painfully reverberate in Rebecca Makkai’s deft third novel, The Great Believers, which captures both the devastation of the AIDS crisis in 1980s Chicago and the emotional aftershocks of those losses.”—Vogue

“A striking, emotional journey… 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.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Tearjerker… The Great Believers asks big questions about redemption, tragedy, and connection. Makkai has written her most ambitious novel yet.”—Entertainment Weekly

The Great Believers soars…magnificent…Makkai has full command of her multi-generational perspective, and by its end, The Great Believers offers a grand fusion of the past and the present, the public and the personal. It’s remarkably alive despite all the loss it encompasses.”—Chicago Tribune

“Beautiful, tender, harrowing… [The Great Believers] is a vivid, passionate, heart-wrenching story.”—Wall Street Journal

“Compulsively readable…a relentless engine mowing back and forth across decades, zooming in on subtlest physical and emotional nuances of dozens of characters, missing no chance to remind us what’s at stake.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“At turns heartbreaking and hopeful, the novel brings the first years of the AIDS epidemic into very immediate view, in a manner that will seem nostalgic to some and revelatory to others…Makkai’s sweeping fourth novel shows the compassion of chosen families and the tension and distance that can exist in our birth ones.”Library Journal

“Sure to become a classic Chicago novel…a deft, harrowing novel that’s as beautiful as its cover.” —Chicago Review of Books

“The latest novel from the stunningly versatile Makkai…Focused on a group of friends, lovers, and family outcasts, the book highlights the way tragic illness shifts the courses of people’s lives—and how its touch forever lingers on those left behind.”Harper’s Bazaar

“A devastating contemplation of love and loss…evokes the epidemic’s horrors, yes, but also the profound acts of generosity it sparked.”Oprah.com, “O’s Top Books of Summer”
 
“Deeply moving…Makkai does an excellent job of capturing the jaded, ironic and affectionately jibing small talk of a group of cultured gay friends in the Reagan era…[Captures] a group of friends in a particular time and place with humor and compassion. Conversations among her gay male characters feel very real — not too flamboyant, not too serious, always morbidly witty. It’s hard not to get drawn into this circle of promising young men as they face their brutally premature extinction.”—Newsday
 
“Two distinct narratives intertwine ingeniously…The stories meet up to heartbreaking effect.”—New York Magazine
 
“A poignant, historical journey through a virus’s outbreak and legacy.”—Conde Nast Traveler
 
“Rebecca Makkai’s beautiful (literally—look at that cover!) novel takes us to an art gallery in Chicago at the height of the AIDS crisis. From Chicago to Paris, THE GREAT BELIEVERS is a sweeping story of multi-generational trauma and the solitude that the AIDS epidemic created, as an entire generation was decimated by the virus.”—Fodor’s Travel

“With its broad time span and bedrock of ferocious, loving friendships, [The Great Believers] might remind readers of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life…though it is, overall, far brighter than that novel. As her intimately portrayed characters wrestle with painful pasts and fight to love one another and find joy in the present in spite of what is to come, Makkai carefully reconstructs 1980s Chicago, WWI-era and present day Paris, and scenes of the early days of the AIDS epidemic. A tribute to the enduring forces of love and art, over everything.”—Booklist (starred review)

“To believe in something is to have faith, and Makkai dispenses it fiercely, in defiance of understandable nihilism and despair—faith in what’s right, in the good in others, in better outcomes, in time’s ability not to heal but to make something new.”—National Book Review

“Another ambitious change of pace for the versatile and accomplished [Rebecca] Makkai… her rich portraits of an array of big personalities and her affecting depiction of random, horrific death faced with varying degrees of gallantry make this tender, keening novel an impressive act of imaginative empathy. As compulsively readable as it is thoughtful and moving: an unbeatable fictional combination.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Author Q&A

How did you come to write a novel about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in particular?
Chicago was and is the third largest city in America, but most of the books and films about the epidemic out there focus on New York, San Francisco, and L.A. This meant I needed to get out from behind my desk and do some legwork. I holed up in the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago and read every issue of the Windy City Times (Chicago’s biggest gay weekly) from 1985 to 1992, and during the four years I worked on the novel I interviewed people one-on-one, in coffee shops or in their homes: doctors, nurses, activists, lawyers, survivors, people with HIV, and people who had simply been young and gay in Chicago in the ’80s. They were so incredibly generous with their time, and in the details and stories they shared. I grew up in Chicago and live here still, so it was much more interesting for me to explore what happened right here. Chicago is, in a way, the great love of my life. I’ll never get tired of it and I’ll never get tired of writing about it. Oddly, the origin of my novel was something that’s now only a small part of it: the art-scene in Paris between the two world wars. I’ve always been fascinated by that time, and by the “Ecole de Paris” set-· the young artists who came to Paris from around the world-and although that shrank to a subplot of the novel, something we hear stories about but don’t see firsthand, it’s still there and still important. The sections in 2015 with Fiona were actually a later addition to the story. I’d written about 150 pages thinking the book was just going to be about the ’80s before I realized I needed to go back and forth in time.

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