When my favorite nurse practitioner on my treatment team recommended this book to me, I ordered it on Amazon immediately (click here to order one for yourself, or check your local library). She said AIDS epidemic and set in the 80s and I was salivating.
Friends, this book is truly poignant and a great read. Rebecca Makkai deftly weaves together a tale from the perspective of Yale Tishman – who belongs to a community of queer people bearing witness to the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 80s and early 90s – with a narrative from the perspective of a woman in the same community thirty years later. It is an authentic and tender emotional journey as entire communities of LGBTIQA+ people succumb to the virus.
The Great Believers has become one of my all-time favorite reads. There is a sense of dread when reading it because you can’t predict which of the characters will fall ill and which survive. Before reading this book, I never really understood what it was like for gay men in the 80s. The illustration of adversity, violence, and erasure is harrowing, yet the members of the community find so much heart and bravery in the face of a nation that openly discriminates against them. This is a story of love, of betrayal, of death. In my search for others’ experiences with death, I found this one to be the most enchanting and calming views on death. Makkai provides a beautiful, heart wrenching account of dying. It’s one of those books that stays with you. I finished the book a few weeks ago, and I still think about the deeply developed characters. This is one of Makkai’s greatest strengths which she uses to engage the reader cognitively and emotionally. In conclusion, yes, I did cry. Like a lot.
I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone, especially people in the LGBTIQA+ community and our allies. I hope you get as much out of this novel as I have.
Thanks for reading!