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Publisher's Summary

Short-listed for the National Book Award

A New York Times selection for best 10 books of the year.

A Washington Post notable book.

A pick for the New York Public Library's 2018 best books.

The perfect holiday gift for readers.

"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.  

©2018 Rebecca Makkai (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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Best book for a long time!

Loved!!! The story is poignant and beautifully depicts a subject many may not know or not know from a personal perspective and the way the aids epidemic shaped a generation ... the characters are developed sensitively and unflinchingly: love,guilt, shame,hope . Kudos to the author in weaving the story to capture the humanness in all its flaws/demonstrating eloquently frailty and the longing to make sense of senselessness... narration makes this a top pick for sure !

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A story for all time

I was so moved by this book that I wrote the author and the narrator. This is one of those books that I will be forever thankful I read it. Truly a story for all time. I’m a blind audio book junkie and Michael Crouch’s performance was amazing.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Menorca
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 08-06-18

Surely this will become a classic

Beautifully conceived. Deals with the full ramifications of the AIDS crisis and society in general in a warm and humane fashion. I've never read anything that as fully covers what some of us lived through from the late 70s til the first decades of the 21st century and the affect it has had on so many aspects of our lives. Makkai writes fluidly. .. almost a page-turner..a marvel considering the extraordinary amount of research which has gone into this book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • GC
  • 07-14-18

Healing, beautiful, hopeful

Rebecca Makkai is a brilliant writer. Her characters and their circumstances are incredibly fleshed out and nuanced. She paints in a broad spectrum of colors and shades, never in black and white, making Yale and Fiona's stories achingly real. The subject matter is heavy, but do not be deterred: this book is full of life.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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WOW

It's been a while since a novel ripped at my seams and left me bleeding by the side of the road quite like this. It's not an easy book to sit through, granted, but the characters are so realistically drawn and fully fleshed out that you cannot help but fall in love in them--which is a very, very bad thing when you are forced to say goodbye to them. It hurt. I can't remember the last time a novel left me blubbering like this at the end. Wow. Just, wow.

And Michael Crouch is a master storyteller. He inhabits each character so completely that you lose yourself in his voice. The story comes alive under his nimble touch. You forget that you are listening to one man voice a dozen or more characters. He's amazing and never disappoints. Buy this today. Like, immediately. But, be prepared for the emotional roller coaster that's coming!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Definitely worth the listen!

This was a really good one, both from a storytelling perspective, bringing light to how the AIDS epidemic affected a close-knit group of friends and their family members, and of course the references to Chicago, particularly Boystown, that feel so familiar.

Chapter 34, in particular, really took my breath away, arriving teary-eyed to work that morning.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Carol
  • LARCHMONT, NY, United States
  • 01-08-19

Absolutely Wonderful

It's been a long time since I was so emotionally involved in a book. The story was riveting; the characters beautifully and realistically portrayed. Although my heart was in my throat throughout most of this novel, I really didn't want it to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JAne
  • Oak Park, Illinois, United States
  • 12-30-18

A book that hits you every which way.

This book is so sad in so many ways. It takes your breath away. But the manner in which it establishes each character and their conflicts and joys is amazing. There are many storylines cross crossing and intersecting between 1986 and 2015. Beautifully written. Beautifully read

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Elliott
  • Palo Alto, CA, United States
  • 12-23-18

When AIDS appeared

Rebecca Makkai's novel provides a compassionate story of the tragedies and courageous fortitude encompassing the first years of the AIDS epidemic, with an extension to today. Noteworthy is the intensity of her insightful revelation of the character and motivations of the several protagonists.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Zeta
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 12-15-18

Read this book. It is so good.

Page turner. Excellent for airplane or long car ride. It is uplifting—in spite of AIDS era setting. Great characters. So well drawn & researched. Maureen Corrigan picked as best book 2018. So glad I took her recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful