Review: The Great Believers

The Great Believers

Winner of the American Library Association (ALA) 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2019 finalist

Its 1985, Yale Tishman the development director for an art gallery in Chicago is about to finalise an amazing coup: hosting and delivering an extraordinary collection of 1920s artwork as a gift to the gallery. As his career starts to flourish, the bloodbath of the HIV epidemic surrounds him. One by one, his friends are dying and after Nico’s funeral, he finds his partner is infected. Worst yet, he might even have the virus The only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s beloved little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris searching for her estranged daughter who joins and disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the HIV crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s stories develop in incredibly touching and sometimes surprising ways, as both grapples to find goodness in the face of disaster.

I knew diving into this one it would be a haunting read, but don’t let the heavy and sad subject frighten you away. This novel is extremely readable and, dare I say it, unputdownable. Rebecca Makkai brings hope, light and respect to a bleak and haunting history. This is accomplished primarily through the characters who are so fully realised you’ll walk away from this one feeling like you had met them in real life.

Coralie Kouvelas – Reading Coordinator – Whittlesea Library

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