The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Reviewed by Jenifer Phillips

In 1985 a young man is on the cusp of having his career at an art gallery take off.  As his career is flourishing, he is experiencing the rise of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. The main character, Yale, is surrounded by a close group of friends who are navigating their way through young adulthood during uncertainty and confusion as HIV grips the gay community.

 

The other half of the story is told by Fiona, who was a teenager in 1985 when her brother succumbed to AIDS. It is now thirty years later and Fiona is in Paris trying to reconnect with her distant daughter. Along the way she will meet up with old friends and survivors from her past.

This is a rare book that is both devastating and beautiful at the same time. It accurately depicts the emotional reverberations that are still being felt by the 1980's AIDS epidemic. The characters are so multilayered and rich that you cannot help but feel all of their joy and heartbreak.

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