Tag Archives: The Great Believers

WWW Wednesday, 10-June-2020

10 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m making a push to finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich this week. I don’t think it will be too much of a problem; it should be on my ‘recently finished’ list next week. The only issue is that it hasn’t really inspired me to do any additional writing. Oh well, it was worth a try.
I needed a new ebook and found out I could give myself both the books I wanted to pick up next if I tried Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin as an ebook. I know it will be a slower read but I also see myself motivated to keep moving forward with it, so maybe it won’t take as long as other ebooks have.
I started a new audiobook that I’m really excited about. Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin is one I’ve been wanting to read for a while and have been putting off. I know Kirin personally and am good friends with her brother. I heard her speak a while back about this book and I’m sorry I put it off as long as I did. She narrates the audiobook herself which is always fun.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue just in time for our book club meeting on Monday. I’m not a huge fan of short stories so I’m sure that affected my rating of it. I gave it Three out of Five Stars. I’ll have a review up tomorrow.
I also finished It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs on audio. I adored hearing the story in Jacobs voice through the audiobook. I’m not sure what project he has coming up next but I’m guessing that it will make for a great book that I’ll love to read. I posted a review yesterday and I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review for The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai on Monday. This was a great read and I’m so glad I was talked into buying a copy by the signage at the story. It was a beautiful story. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I can’t wait to pick up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins as my next physical book. It’s time for some YA dystopian binging and this is the perfect book for it. I hope to have started it by next week.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (4/5)

8 Jun

I picked this book up at a store in Atlanta, GA when I was traveling. It was listed as a selection for one of the store’s book clubs and the accolades on the cover convinced me it was worth picking up. I read the first chapter on that trip but it’s been almost a year and I started over when I got into it this time. I thought the first chapter was a little lost from the story when I first got back to it and almost wished I’d skipped over it again. But that scene came back again and again and became a very pivotal moment in the story so I’m glad I revisited it. It’s a testament to Makkai’s storytelling skills.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.

I wasn’t ready for the emotion of this book. It really took hold of me and I was hooked for the ride. Yale was an amazing character and I kept wishing the whole time that things would be OK for him and the AIDS epidemic would somehow pass him and his friends by, or at least not become worse. I was less vested in Fiona’s story if only because Claire’s estrangement from Fiona seemed loosely defined and not as exciting. Yale’s adventure seemed more present even though it was set in the 80s.

The Boys’ Town characters were amazing and well crafted. A few blended together for me, specifically Asher, and Julian, but a lot of them were vivid and memorable. I loved how even though the entire story takes place after Nico’s death, he’s one of the most present characters throughout the novel. His death has sparked so much in these people’s lives and it stays with Fiona well into her adulthood. Charlie was so easy to imagine and I feel like I’ve met Richard before. I wondered how much of this book was based on experience Makkai had and how much she poured herself into Fiona.

Yale was my favorite character. I loved how he was ‘hopelessly preppy’ and so sweet to everyone. We only see him get honestly mad twice in the book despite everything that happens to him and his friends. He’s a very honest person and he’s someone I would want to be friends with but would probably not have a lot in common with me but be too polite to say anything about it. His devotion to Charlie was admirable. I’m glad he and Fiona became such close friends because he needed her and she was there for him.

Yale’s devotion to his job was something I related to. I recently had a conversation with my husband about how much energy I devote to my job and I was reading this book at the time and didn’t think my dedication was too different from Yale’s. I don’t travel much for work, but I do think about my job and the people it touches a lot when I’m not working. How much Yale worried about the art and the valuation of it struck close to home.

Rebecca Makkai
Image via the author’s website

I loved the subplot with Nora and her art. I thought Yale’s devotion and distraction by this was very telling of his personality. He cared as much about Nora as he did about the art. He cared a lot about people and that’s what made him so sweet and likable. When things in his personal life weren’t going well, he threw himself into his job as a way of distracting himself from what was upsetting and I know I’ve done that so I could relate to him. I loved that his dedication to Nora lasted the entire novel, it was a very sweet friendship that they developed.

Fiona’s modern plotline didn’t do much for me. Her search for Clarie seemed odd. If someone doesn’t want to be found, why do you think looking for them will suddenly spark a relationship? It seemed odd to me that Claire agreed to talk to her mother at all and that was one part of the novel that I didn’t believe. I read an interview with Makkai that she added this section later. I think it did well to draw out the mystery of what happened in Chicago, but it didn’t help me get more into the novel. It actually made me skeptical of Fiona’s character in the 80s plotline.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Michael Crouch and I thought he did a wonderful job with it. His voice was great for Yale and it didn’t strike me as odd when he narrated Fiona’s story. He had a different voice for female characters but it didn’t come off as rude in any way.

Friendship is very important in this novel. Many of the men were abandoned by their families and had to become their own support system. The number of them who signed the power of attorney to Fiona was amazing to me. But it was also justified by how Fiona treated these friends and how close she was to all of them in such a tough time. Their stories are beautiful. The story of the march for health care equality seems to strike me more reading it during protests over police brutality in America right now.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m often struck by stories about things that happened before I was born but were not taught in school. If you think about it, you probably didn’t learn much about what happened in the world in the 20 years before you were born. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that our parents and teachers lived through it and either forget that we didn’t or it’s too painful for them to talk about yet. I was born in 1990 so the mid- to late-eighties isn’t a time I learned a lot about. This is the second book I’ve read that focused on the AIDS epidemic (the other was South of Broad by Pat Conroy) and I’m struck by it in fiction and how I never knew much about it before. Makkai did a great job of teaching me while I was being entertained by her writing.

A masterful book and one I really enjoyed. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (5 out of 5) |generationgbooks
How Rebecca Makkai Wrote ‘The Great Believers’ | Chicago Review of Books

WWW Wednesday, 3-June-2020

3 Jun

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ll eventually finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich but it hasn’t been a priority for me this week. I’m pushing to get through my ebook before the book club meeting so I’ve given that more attention. Unfortunately, this one is easy to put down when I want to so it’s gotten a bit of rest this week.
I keep moving forward with The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue but I’m not sold on short story collections, especially for book club discussions. Some of these have been more interesting than others and I’m moving slowly through them. I hope I finish in time for our meeting!
I was able to start It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs and I’m loving it already. It’s great to have Jacobs read the audio because I’m getting a lot more out of his humor hearing it right from his mouth.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai on Friday and just loved this book. I was put off by the length at first but I never wanted it to end. Yale was an amazing character and I adored following him through the story. I look forward to reviewing this one early next week so I can share what I loved about it. Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think I’ll need a physical book next and I’m torn between two. I just got my copy of the newly released The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins and part of me wants to dive in immediately. Another part of me is calling for patience. The next book on my shelf is also one I’m excited about, Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time, too, and it seems silly to skip past it now when I really need some sports-centric motivation. Anyone have a suggestion?


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Challenge Update, May 2020

1 Jun

What a good month for reading! Picking up my training has increased it though I’ve been getting outside for my bikes more and more with the nice weather which is a bit less listening time. I’m still happy with how this has gone. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in May:

The Starless Sea // Erin Morgenstern (4/5)
The Bookseller // Cynthia Swanson (3/5)
Viola In Reel Life // Adriana Trigiani (3/5)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky // Mackenzi Lee (4/5)
White Oleander // Janet Fitch (4/5)
Wayward Son // Rainbow Rowell (4/5)
The Lola Quartet // Emily St. John Mandel (3/5)
The Great Believers // Rebecca Makkai (4/5)

I’m a bit behind on reviews but should be caught up by next week. Hopefully.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
One more which is all the progress I really need, right? I marked off the 1700-1799 time period with The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee. It’s such a short book that it feels a bit like cheating, but it also feels good to knock off the time period so I’ll roll with it.

Goodreads Challenge

29/55
Seven ahead. I feel like I’m dreaming, I’ve never been this far ahead of the challenge before. I’m loving the cushion. I’m not at all nervous about what happens if I start a longer book. And yes, I do really get anxiety about that.

Book of the Month

I’m wondering if it’s a recency bias, but I think The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai might be my book of the month. I loved this story about love and friendship. The 4.21 rating on Goodreads is helping me reinforce that this is a solid choice. I’ll be reviewing this next week to explain what it is I liked so much.

Added to my TBR

I’m gobsmacked that I’m down to 46! This seems almost impossible after how high this number was even a year ago. It’s been a lot of work getting it down but it feels really amazing.

  • Nothing! Nothing added this month. Man, it’s shrinking fast.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: Well, I’m doing the training. With the COVID19 pandemic, this is really likely to be canceled so I’m not holding my breath but I’m going to put in the work. We’ll see what happens in the coming months.
  • Submit my novel: Ha, that’s funny. I’ll post again tomorrow about how the submission process has been going. I’m not optimistic that this goal will be one I feel I can really check off this year.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 27-May-2020

27 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m making my way through Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich but it’s a slow go. I’m feeling a little more motivated to write, but not a lot like I’d hoped. I’ll see about picking up with my editing or maybe start something new. Something new might be freeing.
I’m making good progress with The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and really enjoying it. It’s a long audiobook, but it’s nice to have a story last a while instead of flying through it. The plot has been great and I’m looking forward to getting further into this one.
I started an ebook of The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue. Our book club made a switch and this is our new book for June. I’m not very excited about it if I’m being honest. I don’t like short story collections very much. I’ll probably finish it without issue, but I’m not sure how much we can talk about.

Recently finished: I pushed to finish The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel so I could start my new ebook. It was a good story but I wasn’t as excited about it as I should have been. Stretching it out over so long dulled how I felt about it. I’ll plan to review it next week.

I posted my review for White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. I’m glad I read this again, it was a beautiful story. I’m hoping to find the movie soon and see if it’s similar and as enjoyable. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and posted that review yesterday. This was fun and I’m so glad I read it. I’m excited for the third book and I hope the release date hasn’t been delayed.

Reading Next: I recently checked for an update to what’s available on my audiobook services and was excited to see that there’s a copy of It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is one of my favorite non-fiction writers so I’m excited to read about this project. He narrates the audiobook himself so I’m getting excited about that, too.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2020

20 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I made some decent progress with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel this week. I’m still a ways from finishing it, but I’m happy with still moving forward with it.
I started Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and I suspect this one will be a bit slow for me. It’s nonfiction and right before bed, that can put me to sleep pretty fast. I’m hoping to feel motivated to do some of the exercises and get to writing again. It would be great to feel like I accomplished that during this lockdown.
I began the audiobook for The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I picked this one up as a physical book when I was visiting Atlanta but it seems I’ll get to the audiobook first. A lot of my books have fallen this way and I’m okay with that.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. Finally! I liked the ending to this one, though it was pretty sad. It was a very different mother/daughter relationship than is usually portrayed in fiction and I liked that it was different, but it was still sad. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I flew through Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and finished it on Saturday. It was a really fun ride and I enjoyed hearing about Simon and Baz and I’m looking forward to book three soon! I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani on Thursday. It was a light, fun ride and I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
After getting through The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee in one day, I posted a review on Monday and gave this one Four out of Five Stars. What a fun ride!

Reading Next: I’m going to pick up my book club selection next: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. This one has some length to it so even with tri training, I probably will take at least a week to get through it.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!