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Publisher's Summary

Short-listed 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.  

©2018 Rebecca Makkai (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"[Narrator Michael] Crouch is expressive and empathetic, breathing life into the many characters without ever overacting or exaggerating accents. His timing is superb, rarely rushing or slowing the pace even when the novel takes circuitous routes." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 !

9 of 9 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.

6 of 6 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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  • 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.

3 of 3 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!

7 of 8 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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heargtbreaking and brilliant

This book seemed to start out slow, but I kept listening until I couldn't wait to start listening again. The narrator is brilliant....manages to capture a wide cast of characters without apparent effort, just easy transitions from one to another. The writing is seamless, and the ending has a permanent place in my heart. I'd give it six stars if I could.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant writing and a masterful performance

This book was recently named a finalist for the National Book Award (deservedly so) and will hopefully show up as a nominee for the Audie Award. I plan to read it in print to experience Rebecca Makkai's beautiful prose on its own but I am so glad that I listened to Michael Crouch bring the story to life on audio.

If you are old enough to have lived through the 80s AIDS crisis, you remember all the devastating losses, the fears, the anger and the hope. This story starts with the lives of the men in Boystown in Chicago, and is told through the eyes of Yale Tishman, a man with a wide circle of friends, a lover, a meanigful job and dreams of a bright future. Fiona is the sister of one of Yale's friends, a young man named Nico, who we meet only through the recollections of Yale, Fiona and others. The story moves back and forth between Yale's life in the 80's as he struggles to hold on while his personal and professional lives unravel, and Fiona's in 2015 as she searches for the daughter who has disappeared from her life.

Makkai takes her time to devolop the deep connections between the characters, to show how the actions and decisions of the characters will resonate for decades. I felt a little impatient at the start but it was well worth sticking to the story. It is not a 'page turner' but a story that will gradually take hold of your imagination and emotions. There is plenty of fodder for book club discussion in this book: love, art, motherhood, the gay rights movevent, the cost of self sacrifice, the power of protest, friendship, etc.

I read and listen to two to three books a week and rarely does a book make this big of an impression on me. This is one of those exceptional books that will live in my head and heart for a long time to come. Kudos to Rebecca Makkai and Michael Crouch for creating a truly beautiful and hearrtbreaking work of art.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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outstanding

great character development terrific and poignant story author showed me ways that aids must have felt for the friends.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 10-06-18

Friends in Pain

The two parallel stories in this moving novel deal with friendship, family and the difficulty of maintaining relationships in the face of bad behavior.

The bigger story is a heartbreaking study of a group of gay men in 1980s Chicago, as the AIDS crisis grows. The men have created a tight friendship circle in Boystown, a neighborhood of stylish if not wealthy gay men. Yale Tishman, who works at an art gallery at Northwestern University, watches as one friend after another contracts the disease.

The secondary story, told in alternating chapters, focuses on a mother seeking her estranged daughter in 2013 Paris. Fiona, the mother, was the sister of one of the AIDS victims in the earlier story and a close friend of many of the Boystown men. One of the author’s skills is in how she reveals how a wholly sympathetic character like Fiona can inadvertently alienate and betray her own child.

The narration by Michael Crouch was excellent and just right for this understated, empathetic novel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful