FICTION

The Great Believers

Viking. Jun. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780735223523. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735223547. F
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In mid-1980s Chicago, Yale Tishman's career in the art world is on an upswing just as the AIDS epidemic begins to decimate his circle of friends and acquaintances. Friend Nico is one of the first to be taken, and his funeral brings together Yale, partner Charlie, photographer Richard, aspiring actor Julian, Nico's sister, Fiona, and various other friends and acquaintances. Skip to 2015, and Fiona is staying with Richard in Paris, seeking to reconnect with her daughter, Claire, from whom she's been estranged since Claire's entry into a fundamentalist cult. The narrative moves deftly between Chicago and Paris, with Yale and Fiona's stories intertwining around connections made and lost. At turns heartbreaking and hopeful, the novel brings the first years of the AIDS epidemic into very immediate view, in a manner that will seem nostalgic to some and revelatory to others.
VERDICT Makkai's sweeping fourth novel (after Music for Wartime) shows the compassion of chosen families and the tension and distance that can exist in our birth ones. This should strike a chord with the Gen Xers who came of age, and then aged, in these tumultuous years. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]

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