Unbound Book Club – The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Skylark Bookshop’s final Unbound book club pick is also one of the shop’s favorites – The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. It’s a dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris.

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.

The Great Believers has become a critically acclaimed, indelible piece of literature; it was selected as one of New York Times Best 10 Books of the Year, a Washington Post Notable Book, a Buzzfeed Book of the Year, a Skimm Reads pick, and a pick for the New York Public Library’s Best Books of the year.