Review: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Title: The Great Believers
Author: Rebecca Makkai
Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 448 Pages
Published June 2018

Summary: 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.

My college book club ended up choosing this book for the fall semester, and if I'm being entirely honest, I definitely started off a little bit unsure, because I don't read a lot of adult books (as you all know, YA is my jam), so I wasn't quite sure if I was going to enjoy it or not. Luckily for me, I ended up really enjoying this book, and I clung to it until the very end! So without further ado, let's get into my review.

As the summary explains, this story is told in a dual point of view, with Yale's perspective in 1985 and Fiona's perspective in 2015. In each time period, the characters are going through profound struggles and lost, in different ways, on different scales, but as the story goes on, the two stories begin to intertwine more and more. This book is heart-hitting, gripping, and will have you clinging onto the narrative until the very end.

I really, really enjoyed this book! It started off a bit slow for me at first, but after a few chapters, I really started to get into it and I found myself wanting to open the book and read whenever I had a spare second. I found it really easy to fall into the story, and even though there were so many different characters, I didn't have any trouble distinguishing between any of them at all. This is such a complex, emotional story, and by the time I finished it, I was in tears and already texting the other members of the club to let them know how torn up I was. All I can say (without giving anything away) is that this book definitely has tons of plot twists that you don't expect, and the ending will certainly take you by a really emotional surprise.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Yale. I felt so bad for him throughout a lot of the story, for a variety of different reasons -- none of which I'm going to explain, because you need to read the book to find out! -- but throughout it all he was such a good friend, an honest man, and it was clear that he was trying to be the best person that he possibly could. It didn't take me long to start cheering him on, and I loved his chapters any time they showed up in the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Great Believers! I'm so glad that my college book club ending up choosing this book for the fall semester, because I found a great new read that I know I'll definitely be recommending to a lot of my friends. If you're hesitant about reading an adult book as an avid YA reader, I'm here to confirm that The Great Believers was still an incredible book that I really loved, and I'm kicking myself for judging it before I had a chance to pick it up! Add this to your TBR right now -- you need this incredible experience!


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