The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (2018)

download I could not put this book down. No wonder it won so many awards. Two storylines alternate by chapter, and both are captivating: one takes place in 1980s Chicago where the gay community is simultaneously gaining identity and voice and also dying from AIDS. The other, Paris in 2015, where Fiona–who cared for and lost so many friends in the 80s–searches for her estranged daughter. A daughter born in Chicago at the height of the crisis. A daughter born the very night Fiona lost Yale, her closest friend. A daughter who never really felt loved by her damaged and traumatized mother who attended countless funerals–including her brother’s–while  still in her early 20s. Young Fiona is feisty and angry and constantly grieving while simultaneously becoming an AIDS activist. Fifty-ish Fiona just wants to connect with the daughter who shut her out. There is so much to love about this story of friendship, hope, art, activism, and love. Through death and disease, these characters–Yale, the art curator, Charlie, the magazine publisher, Julian, the actor, Terrence, the teacher, Asher, the lawyer–are the great believers.  So powerful and sad and beautiful.

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