The Great Believers
A novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about to pull off a coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings. 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 epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of 80’s and the chaos of the modern world, as both struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
Praise for The Great Believers
“The Great Believers is a magnificent novel—well imagined, intricately plotted, and deeply felt, both humane and human. It unfurls like a peony: you keep thinking it can’t get any more perfect, and it does. A stunning feat.”
– Rabih Alameddine, author of The Angel of History and Koolaids: The Art of War
“Stirring, spellbinding, and full of life.”
—Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“In the remarkable The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai conjures up a time as startling as a dream and, in its extremity, achingly familiar to us now, close enough to hold. A tender, sly, immersive, irreverent, life force of a book.”
—Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship
“Rebecca Makkai’s novel The Great Believers has stolen my heart. Crossing decades and lives, love and loss, art, and the long lasting legacy of AIDS, the novel is a brilliant triumph of empathy and intimacy between friends.”
—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children
“The Great Believers is by turns funny, harrowing, tender, devasting, and always hugely suspenseful. It reminds us, poignantly, of how many people, mostly young, often brilliant, were lost to the AIDS epidemic, and of how those who survived were marked by that struggle. Rebecca Makkai is a wonderfully empathetic writer and this novel shows her at the height of her powers.”
—Margot Livesey, New York Times bestselling author of Mercury