The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

a bookclique pick by Stacey Loscalzo

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite librarians urged me to read The Great Believers. I was sold when she said, “It’s A Little Life — Lite.” While A Little Life was a devastatingly difficult book to read, it has remained with me, and if I had to do the impossible and rank my top 10 lifetime reads, A Little Life would be on the list. That said, it was emotionally draining to read, so the addition of the word ‘lite’ at the end of Lorri’s description made me go for it.

The Great Believers is the story of Yale and his group of friends during the AIDS crisis in 1980’s Chicago to the present day. I was a child in the 1980s, so while I knew about AIDS, I don’t think I processed the impact the disease had on entire communities of people. The story goes back and forth in time between the eighties and the present day, linking sets of characters over time in a fascinating way. While at times the novel felt a bit slow to me, I am so glad I read through to the end. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book filled with so many rich characters. Often, when I read books that alternate in time, I find myself reading quickly through one section to get back to the time frame that I enjoy, but I was equally captivated by both story lines.

I hope that many will read The Great Believers. Please find and tell me what you thought when you do. This is a book that begs for discussion.

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