The Great Believers

Thoughts (cover) by Rebecca Mekkai, 2018, 18 hrs 17 minutes

Narrated by Michael Crouch

Challenge:  Personal, TOB influenced
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Audible Audiobook
 Why I read this now:  on my mind and timing worked? (no idea)



Soon to Be a Major Television Event, optioned by Amy Poehler

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris…

THOUGHTS: What I wrote on goodreads:

Maybe this is a 4 star PLUS maybe it is a 5 but it is heart-wrenching and emotional; a button-pushing, guilt-absorbing, helluva read. 

I have yet to read any reviews but I hope some mention that it is a book about motherhood almost as much as lost-enduring love and the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, and Chicago. so many themes. so many feelings.

Imaginary Interviewer: “So, Care, why do you claim this book is about motherhood?”

Care: “Sorry, my intention was to suggest that a theme of motherhood is woven into the story and it explores our expectations of what motherhood should be.”

II: “Like what?”

Care: “Well, it struck me early on that Yale’s mother abandoning him when he was 6 pr 7 might come back up – actually, this book had some obvious foreshadowing tactics and this was one – sort of. You don’t bring up the guy’s sad childhood and chat about his mother who left more than the father who stayed without making the reader hope it is resolved or explored later.

And, I didn’t expect the how Makkai brought her back!  Well done. NOT cliche. At least to me.”

II: Is this going to be a spoiler-full post?

Care: “Yes, I think it is.

II, shouting: “SPOILERS AHEAD!!!  OK, go on.”

Care: “Sure. So, Fiona shut out her mother because Mom kicked out the son, the brother Nico. Or rather didn’t stop Dad from doing so. Maybe Mom did what she could – allowing Fiona to rob from her purse to give to Nico, etc. But the funeral stuff was very very sad.

And then Fiona was devastated that she was shut out by her daughter. And she couldn’t figure it out because she was nothing NOTHING! like her mother.

And then there was the Cecily – Kurt, mother-son relationship. Also, there was Teresa, Charlie’s mom and mom to Yale in turn. Who was all heart, it seemed.

Plus, the dash of southern motherly love for Julian! I loved that part. I think, as a reader in the situation we are immersed in to that point, especially, you don’t expect Julian’s mom to welcome him back home and not bat an eye. But she does.

Finally, Nora and her ‘having her son so late’ and thus spoiling him. Ha! Wow, did I hate Frank and that whole thing. Just horrid.

Basically, you can’t expect how your kids will turn out. You can’t assume a happy relationship, no matter what the circumstances?

I liked Yale and liked the 80s storyline. Fiona was not someone I could warm up to but by the end of the book, I was able to be empathetic, sympathetic to her (and glad her therapist seemed sensible with the advice to ‘be the grown up’.)

Still not sure what to think of Claire. She seemed overly harsh to me. And she is probably why I give this 4 and not 5 slices.

Fiona suffered PTSD. Yale didn’t deserve that fate and boy was I pissed off at Roman. And Frank. And Bill. and Charlie. Gah! There were some peaches in this book, goodness gracious.

Fiona’s ex husband came out looking OK, though. All the best to his wife.

Gosh, Richard was happy-go-lucky, yes?

II:  (gives perplexed nod.)

Care: “Yay Richard.”

(Moment of uncomfortable silence.)

II: “Care, how long has it been since you wrote a book review?”

Care: “Uh, too long? I’m a bit rusty.”

II: “Yep.”

RATING: Four slices of pie.

Potpie was mentioned and I think there was a bit of pie sharing in the driving-north-to Wisconsin parts. I think.

At 36%, I have a quote marked:

 “Sold out her father for what was left of the pie.”





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9 thoughts on “The Great Believers

  1. I read this book earlier this year and loved it, but with a lot of the reservations about certain characters that you had. Man, there are some stinkers in there, right? I thought overall it had a lot of heart, though, and I loved the way it pulls you into the world of 1980’s Boystown–it made me want to visit and see the neighborhood for myself.

  2. I loved your review! And I like your analysis about the mothers. I don’t think I got the over all theme while reading but now that you point it out.

    I was waiting most of the book for Fiona to get the wake up call about her relationship with her own daughter and to realize she cut her mom out of her life too. I get that Claire seemed terrible. But I think she didn’t get the mother she wanted or needed. Let’s hope she breaks the cycle with her own daughter

    I thought the Kurt/Cecily connection was a little thin…like it didn’t really need to be there, but fine. It took me a while to make the connection that Kurt was the 10 year old from a few pages back.

    You are so right about the book being guilt inducing and button pushing. With Yale and his relationship with Roman I was (in my head) shouting at the book DON’T DO IT!!!!

    1. yea… Fiona drove me a bit off the edge at times. I did like that she was trying but wow could be she be prickly and obstinate. I wish Nora had stood up to her son and I wish that Roman had NOT shown up! I was so uneasy about all the Roman passages. Thanks for the terrific comment. Not sure why the motherhood theme kept going off in my head but it did. #shrug

  3. Pingback: August 2019 Update – Care's Books and Pie

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