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Books Similar to A Little Life

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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Synopsis of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


The Great Believers takes us back to 1980s Chicago, where the AIDS epidemic is devastating the city.  Yale, an art gallery director, is watching his friends die one by one, while trying to make his mark in the art world. As the disease gets closer to him, he clings to the one person left, his friend Nico's little sister, Fiona.


Fast forward thirty years, and Fiona is now in Paris, searching for her daughter who's joined a cult. While staying with an old friend, a photographer who captured the Chicago crisis on film, she confronts the painful memories of how AIDS tore apart her life and her relationship with her daughter.


The book jumps between these two timelines, weaving a story of friendship, loss, and the struggle to find hope amid disaster. It's been hailed as a modern classic, landing on all sorts of "best books" lists from the New York Times to Buzzfeed. 


A Brief Review of The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


I really got into this book from the first page. It starts with the death of Nico, a young gay man who was disowned by his family because of his sexuality. The only person who stood by him was his sister, Fiona, and through Nico, she discovers the gay community and finds a place where she belongs.


The book will remind you of A Little Life – the scope, the friendships, the overwhelming sense of loss. Maybe it was because it was set in Chicago, places I know, so I could easily picture everything in my head: Belmont Rocks, Lincoln Park, Halsted Street, Ann Sathers...


I absolutely loved this novel. It felt so real and I connected with the story on a deep level. It really takes you back to that time period, showing the political indifference, the public turning a blind eye because they thought AIDS only affected gay people (which, of course, wasn't true), the insurance companies fighting not to pay claims... It was a mess, and families were torn apart.


But it also shows the other side – the incredible support within the gay community, friends taking care of each other, a mother who never gave up on her son. You get to know so many of these characters intimately, especially Yale and Fiona, who narrate the story. There's a side plot about Fiona's aunt and some valuable artwork, which felt a little long, but it did tie into the main story and was something Yale was passionate about completing.


In the present-day storyline, Richard's photography exhibit brings the novel full circle. It beautifully merges the past with the present.

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