The Great Believers

The Great Believers

by Rebecca Makkai

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Overview

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

“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, by the acclaimed author Rebecca Makkai

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735223523
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/19/2018
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 14,374
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

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.

Read an Excerpt

1985
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Great Believers"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Makkai.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Spanning thirty years and two continents, The Great Believers is a stirring emotional journey through the 1980s AIDS crisis in Chicago and its effects on the contemporary lives of survivors.

In 1985, Yale Tishman is the development director at the art gallery at Northwestern University, working to bring in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift from an elderly woman who was once an artist’s model in Paris. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. First the virus takes his friend Nico, then others, until 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 her old friend Richard, 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 only child. Yale and Fiona’s stories unfold in moving and sometimes surprising ways, as both struggle to find goodness in the face of disaster. The Great Believers is a powerful meditation, not on death, but rather on the power and gift of love and friendship.

1. Yale’s group of friends is very close. In a sense, they are his “chosen family.” How is this explored in the book? How does each character relate to their family, biological and chosen? Do you have a “chosen family,” and if so, what brings you all together?

2. How has the culture changed regarding LGBTQ+ voices and stories since the 1980s?

3. Chicago is such a powerful presence in this novel that it is almost a character in itself. Have you ever been to or lived in a place that exerted a strong influence on you?

4. Nora, the elderly woman donating the 1920s pieces, seems completely removed from the rest of Yale’s life, yet her story contains elements that can be compared and contrasted with Yale’s. What similarities between his and her life are there? How has her past affected the present?

5. Fiona has suffered many losses in her life. How do you think that affected her as a mother? What are the ways in which trauma and loss are passed down through generations?

6. Do you empathize more with Fiona or Claire?

7. Do you see any parallels between the state of healthcare during the 1980s and now?

8. On page 353, Asher asks Yale, “Does it really ever go anywhere? . . . Love. Does it vanish?” Yale replies, “I mean, we never want it to. But it does, doesn’t it?” What would you say to them?

9. Is the creation of artwork always a collaborative effort? How do you feel about the relationship between artist and muse?

10. What has been your knowledge of—or experience with, if any—AIDS or those affected by the disease? Has reading this novel changed any ideas you have previously had about the subject?

Customer Reviews

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The Great Believers 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 5 days ago
While I enjoyed the book, I felt another good-edit was needed for at least the first half of the book.
Jenny_Brown 10 days ago
This novel blew me away. Blew. Me. Away. The two storylines--of Yale in 1980s Chicago, surrounded by the AIDS epidemic and of Fiona in 2015 searching for her missing daughter in Paris--were both so captivating that I'd be disappointed at the end of a chapter because I'd want more of his/her story, only to be thrust into the next one and not wanting that one to end either. Perhaps some of my adoration of this novel is because the 1980s were my formative years, and I spent much of the early '90s volunteering with Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City. The novel so well touched on the issues (without ever making them seem like Issues with a capital I), weaving them into the story, that it evoked emotions in me that haven't surfaced in years. This novel moved me. I needed to see how it ended but I so didn't want it to end, and the final image is one that haunts. This novel is superb.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This well -written and substantial novel recalls a time---the AIDS epidemic --- and the lives of those who survived and those who did not.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Striking, haunting, I'll think of this one for days. Multiple layers across decades leaving the question: if someone leaves your life prematurely, versus sticking with you towards a bitter end, how does your perception of them change? Thanks for the ARC, Netgalley
Anonymous 6 months ago
Thank you to Net Galley for giving me an advance copy of this book. This is in the running to be the best book I read this year and has already gone onto my greatest books ever list. The Great Believers follows Yale, a gay man in 1983, and Fiona, a friend of his searching for her daughter in 2015. The way every character in this book is developed makes them so totally believable, I almost miss them as if they were my friends. This book tackles the AIDs crisis in the 1980s and I found myself sobbing on the subway as I tore through this book to get top the next chapter. The alternating perspectives is done beautifully. This book will be remembered as a masterpiece and I will be following the author's work to see what she has in store for the future!