menu

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

“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.”—Michael Cunningham in The New York Times Book Review

“Engrossing…thrilling and beautiful to behold.”—The Boston Globe

“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

“Busily Dickensian, her prose a relentless engine mowing back and forth across decades… missing no chance to remind us what’s at stake… Warmly dimmensional… Compulsively readable.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

“Symphonic… 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. And it’s right on target in addressing how the things that the world throws us feel gratuitously out of step with the lives we think we’re leading.”The Chicago Tribune

“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

“This book will be compared to similar mammoth works of fiction, but Makkai differs in that she seems to care about her characters and her readers… each character – main or secondary – is fully developed, and it is hard not to care for them. The pain and prejudice they suffer becomes personal as their lives are carefully told… A forceful work of fiction that will captivate readers.”—Baltimore Outloud

“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

“Powerfully emotional.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Makkai is very good at conjuring a gay community enacting the usual dramas of love and lust and ambition and jealousy in a world where all the usual dramas suddenly can carry a fatal charge.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“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)

“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)

“Layered, satisfying… Makkai’s novel about resilience and hope is sure to win readers over.”—Publishers Weekly, “Summer Reads 2018, Fiction”

“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

“This is the kind of big novel that makes you laugh and cry and leaves you thinking about it for days after you’ve finished…THE GREAT BELIEVERS presents a deeply personal view of an epidemic that shaped a generation…already drawing comparisons to Hanya Yanagihara’s immensely popular A Little Life (although, we promise, it’s far more upbeat!).”—Mind Body Green

“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)

“Rebecca Makkai is an unsung gem.”Book Riot

“[The Great Believers] will move and captivate readers.”Bookish

“Makkai’s their novel, a devastating contemplation of love and loss, evokes the epidemic’s horrors, yes, but also the profound acts of generosity it sparked.”O, The Oprah Magazine (“O’s Top Books of Summer”)

“Tearjerker… The Great Believers asks big questions about redemption, tragedy, and connection.”Entertainment Weekly

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

“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

Read More →

Purchase The Great Believers

You can buy the book by clicking the following links:

scroll to top