The Great Believers

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai is getting major press in the US but for some sad reason, not so much here at home. So! That’s where I’ll step in because this is a novel I wish everyone would read. It’s a big one but it’s gripping, keeping you turning page after page after page. You know those books you can’t wait to get back to when you’re not reading it? This is one of those books.

The story moves between two time periods: 1985 where we follow and love a group of young men living in Chicago during the AIDS crisis and 2015, the story of a woman searching for her lost adult daughter in Paris. I love this sort of book! Reading and waiting to see just how and when the stories will intersect.

The subject of The Great Believers is serious but somehow never gets too heavy or too sad. There are funny moments and it is definitely not a slow read. Ultimately, The Great Believers is about the family we choose.  It’s a heartbreaking story, of course it is. So many young men die for no reason with no help except from each other. We don’t know how bad it was, how many people died, how many families were torn apart.

Makkai’s other books are gems as well. I remember falling completely in love with The Borrower when it came out. It tells the story of a young librarian who helps a young boy through major struggles in his life and it also is amazing.

The Great Believers will surely be on many awards lists next fall and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins. I’ve read in reviews that it is going to be this new book that will make Makkai a household name.

If my raving review of this book doesn’t draw your interest than read something from the author herself. This was a recent post she put on Facebook about writing a novel during such trying times.

This is a weird time to be releasing a novel, and I have a lot of other things on my mind.

Something that’s been hammered home for me in five years of work on this book: genocide does not always announce itself as genocide. It doesn’t always come in swinging machetes. It can be slow. It can be built of neglect. A lot of the time, it looks like bureaucracy. It’s going to happen again and again, in our lifetime: People in power are going to kill the people with the least power. Most often, they’re going to do it slowly and silently.

But here’s the other thing I’ve learned by writing a book about AIDS, and listening to survivors: You can fight harder than you think. You can fight when you’re sick, you can fight when you’re despondent, you can fight when you have nothing to lose, you can fight when you have everything to lose.

We don’t always choose the battles we’re conscripted into. I’m proud and honored to be in the trenches with all of you.

Yes, yes and yes! This leaves me jumping and fist pumping the air.

When I finished this book I just sat on my couch, holding it, not ready to let it go. This book, to me, is a heart that I want to hang on to and protect, but I would love to share it with you.

— Sarah C.

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