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Health Beyond The Blog

Recommendations for health related events, activities, and resources

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

Recommended by Dr. Jennifer Sarrett

I’ve been reading The Great Believers, a wonderful novel that is set in both the early-mid 1980s and 2015. These storylines are focused on the gay community in Chicago. In both timelines, the AIDS epidemic is central. The 1980s storyline focuses on a character named Yale, whose story beautifully exemplifies the loss and fear felt throughout the gay community at a time when the people were dying awful deaths from AIDS, and the government refused to acknowledge the illness (Ronald Reagan did not publicly say the word “AIDS” until 1985).

The 2015 timeline focuses on Fiona, who lost her brother Nico—who was a close friend of Yale’s—to AIDS in 1984. As she searches for her daughter in Paris, the loss and legacy of the death of her brother and many of his friends remains present. The book not only accurately represents the struggle of the early AIDS epidemic, but also the lasting legacies that are felt to this day.

The Great Believers has gathered several awards and been short-listed for The National Book Award, and it deserves every one. If you are looking for good novel, this is the one.