A novel spanning 30 years and two continents takes the reader on a journey, both intimate and sweeping, through the 1980s AIDS crisis in Chicago and its residual effects on the contemporary lives of survivors.
The Great Believers is, as far as I know, among the first novels to chronicle the AIDS epidemic from its initial outbreak to the present—among the first, that is, to convey the terrors and tragedies of the epidemic’s early years as well as its course and its repercussions over the decades. Makkai puts the epidemic (which, of course, has not yet ended) into historical perspective without distancing it or blunting its horrors ... It would be futile to try to convey the novel’s considerable population, or its plots and subplots, though both population and plots are ingeniously interwoven. The question 'What happens next?' remains pressing from the first page to the last ... Although I can’t help wishing the two stories had worked together more potently, that doesn’t detract from the deep emotional impact of The Great Believers, nor does it diminish Makkai’s accomplishment. She has borne unblinking witness to history and to a horrific episode already in danger—among Americans, that is—of becoming a horror story out of the past.
The Great Believers brings a whole era back into view...with the the book's 1985 narrative..offering a grand fusion of the past and the present ... Makkai is a wily, seductive writer...who brings sympathy to these vivid and varied personalities ... it's remarkably alive despite all the loss it encompasses.
...a heartbreaking meditation on AIDS, loss, and friendship ... By deftly weaving together Yale’s, Nora’s, and Fiona’s stories, Makkai finds surprising resonances across time and experience, offering a timely commentary on the price of memory and the role of art in securing legacies at risk of being lost ... it’s tempting to see The Great Believers as the latest entry in the genre of straight women writing about gay male trauma ... Makkai’s focus here is on recuperating the overlooked history of the women caretakers ... What makes The Great Believers great is Makkai’s skill at uncovering facets of a historical record many of us may feel we already comprehensively understand. What makes it an enduring work of fiction is the elegance with which it transmutes the quotidian...into an evocative time capsule that captures the essence of an entire life.