The Great Believers

The Great Believers Book Summary

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris

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.

The Great Believers has become a critically acclaimed, indelible piece of literature; it was selected as one of New York Times Best 10 Books of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Buzzfeed Book of the Year, a Skimm Reads pick, and a pick for the New York Public Library's Best Books of the year.

Title:The Great Believers
Edition Language:English



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    The Great Believers Reviews

  • Rebecca Makkai

    Only giving this five stars because I'm married to the author's husband....

  • Dan

    In a weird way, I feel that this is the sweeping gay masterpiece that A Little Life shouldve been. Its a nice long read about a close-knit group of gay friends and their straight allies that jumps bac...

  • Richard Derus

    2020 UPDATE this book is nominated for the International DUBLIN Literary Award! Good luck, Author Makkai!DNF @ p.148What, I hear you thinking, is wrong with this old man? DNF a five-star read? Five-st...

  • Larry H

    I'm between 3.5 and 4 stars, rounding up.At the start of The Great Believers , Rebecca Makkai's beautifully poignant yet meandering new novel, it is 1985, and Yale Tishman and his partner, Charlie, a...

  • Chris

    I read this novel when it was first published in 2018 and I was gobsmacked by how spectacular every moment was -- and by the rich panorama Rebecca Makkah created of Chicago in the 1980s and Paris in 2...

  • Diane S ?

    4.5 The story opens with the death of a young gay man, named Nico. Disowned by this family for his sexual preference, that is all but his younger sister, Fiona, who is with him until the end. This is ...

  • Roman Clodia

    Theres an important story here (at least in the 1985 strand) as AIDS cuts through the Chicago gay community but something about Makkais style left me feeling mostly disengaged from it in emotional te...

  • Michael

    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.Alternating between present-day Paris and '80s Chicago, The Great Believers explores the impact and aftermath of the AI...

  • Angela M

    The Great Believers 3.5 stars rounded up 1980s Chicago, the devastating AIDS epidemic seen through the eyes of a group of gay friends as they slowly lose so many in their circle of friends, reflects t...

  • Emily May

    I found The Great Believers really dry and boring. It's about the AIDs epidemic and a group of gay friends, split between 1985 and 2015, and yet this subject that should have been deeply emotional lef...