'The Great Believers' Turns The Blind Eye Back To The AIDS Crisis

Sep 7, 2018

Chicago writer Rebecca Makkai’s newest book, "The Great Believers", is a work of fiction, but its underpinnings are very real, and very familiar to people in the Midwest. Much of the book is set in the late 1980s and early '90s, in Chicago’s gay community. It was a time when AIDS was reaching epidemic levels and thousands were dying, even as politicians ignored it and broader society often spread fear, misinformation and distrust.

Credit Penguin Random House

"Again, we're turning a blind eye to it," notes Makkai. "AIDS is still the eighth leading cause of death for Americans age 25-34. And I'm getting comments all the time from people going like, 'Yeah, I remember that time, that was really bad. But now it's such a manageable condition, it's almost like just having diabetes or asthma.' It's not."

The book is a sweeping portrayal of that time through the eyes of Yale, his partner Charlie, and their friends and colleagues in the gay community. It also jumps forward to contemporary Paris and a mother’s search for her estranged daughter. But it is the book’s ability to capture the feeling of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s Midwest that Rebecca Makkai and Lake Effect's Mitch Teich discussed at a recent Boswell Book Company event:

Chicago writer Rebecca Makkai is the author of three novels, including "The Borrower," "The Hundred Year House," and her latest, "The Great Believers."