When the World Health Organization declared Dec. 1 World AIDS Day in 1988, the disease was already a global pandemic. By the end of that year, 82,362 cases of AIDS had been reported in the United States, and more than 61,000 people had died nationwide. In the 30 years since, the disease has killed an estimated 35.4 million people in all, including more than 700,000 in the United States. Today, there are still some 36.9 million people living with H.I.V. and AIDS around the world.
Four of the most powerful novels we have read this year bring us stories from the plague years. Stories that put human faces on those bald -- and terrifying -- statistics. Let these fine works of fiction open your heart.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai is one of 2018's great novel. As I write this review it's already been a finalist for the National Book Award and it was also just chosen as a New York Times Top 10 book for the year. Past and present. Chicago and Paris. The young men who died. The men who lived. The heartbreaking sadness of so much loss. The guilt of survival. It's ambitious and grand and very moving. A must read.
So why should you read Tin Man, a small novel by a writer you’re not sure you know? You should read this book because with lapidary precision Sarah Winman has managed to capture so many things that matter, and she has done so in language that is simple and beautiful. She has done so in a way that will leave you crying on a Southwest flight from Los Angeles to Oakland. This short, perfect novel is going to break your heart and remind you why the pain is worth it.
The energy, the color, the passion of The Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassera set it apart from most debuts. It's big, kinda messy, wretchedly sad, and so damn gorgeous. Inspired the fabulous young queens who created the House of Xtravaganza -- the first Latin drag house -- Cassera brings us their stories in all their sequined and heartbreaking glory.
*Starred Review* Restless during the seismic summer of 1969 on New York's Lower East Side, the four Gold siblings, descendants of Jews who fled violent persecution overseas, sneak off to see a fortune-teller, who tells them each, separately, the date of his or her death. So begins Benjamin's bewitching and provocative second novel.Each character's story is saturated with paradox in this delving family saga laced with history and science and a heart-pounding inquiry into self, inheritance, fate, and the mind-body connection. At 16, Simon runs away to San Francisco, comes out as gay, and discovers his gift for dance just as AIDS begins its shattering assault. Magician Klara calls herself the Immortalist. Daniel is a military doctor; scientist Varya is conducting a longevity study with rhesus monkeys. All are afflicted by the poison of prophecy. Aligned in her artistic command, imagination, and deep curiosity about the human condition with Nicole Krauss, Dara Horn, and Stacey D'Erasmo, Benjamin asks what we want out of life. Duration? Success? Meaning? Who do we live for? Do our genes determine our path? How does trauma alter us? Benjamin has created mesmerizing characters and richly suspenseful predicaments in this profound and glimmering novel of death's ever-shocking inevitability and life's wondrously persistent whirl of chance and destiny.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)