The Great Believers

Yale Tishman needs to go upstairs for a minute to pull himself together. He’s at the wake slash house party for his friend Nico, his latest friend to die—it’s 1985, and AIDS is decimating the Boystown area of Chicago. When Yale returns downstairs, everyone is gone. All his friends are gone.

In 2015, in Paris, Nico’s loyal sister Fiona, a mother now, meets the detective she has hired to help her find her adult daughter, whom she hasn’t seen in years.

In Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, now out in paperback, the relationship between the two refracting storylines—AIDS circling in on Yale, Fiona circling in on her daughter—quickly becomes clear, then deepens, then blurs when reader eyeballs get wet and can’t see the pages.

There exists an alternate universe in which this novel—written by a straight woman (as Makkai addresses in the acknowledgements) with a plot that funnels the story of the gay men down through time and into the story, years later, of another straight woman—lands with a woo, the literary equivalent of a bachelorette party at a gay bar. We live over here, though, in the universe housing an elegant, well-researched story about the wide-ranging effects of cataclysmic destruction for the men, yes, and also for their unheralded caretakers like Fiona. PLEASE READ

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, from Viking