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Pickle Me This

January 31, 2020

Perfect Pockets

I had the coziest reading week last week, with a backlog of books I wanted to review, and therefore I had to slow down with my reading, to spend some quality time with just one book while my reviewing got caught up. And the book I chose was The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai, which I had been on the verge of purchasing over and over again since it came out in 2018. I’d read her previous novel years ago, and found it middling, which made me wary of picking up this one, but there was nothing middling about its acclaim so I finally broke and bought it when I was at Hunter Street Books in Peterborough the other week, when I’d entered the store at five minutes before closing. And then I sat down to read it a few days later, and I’m so glad I read it the way I did, slow and easy, instead of in a hurry. It’s a giant, sprawling, ambitious story that’s maybe a bit too ambitious—as was her last book. But this one used that largeness and packed it with substance, with stuff, and even though I found some of the art stuff and connections to Paris in the 1920s a *bit* of stretch, still it stretched without breaking, and the connection worked. And her portrayal of the AIDs crisis in the 1980s was literally stunning, so devastating—and she wrote about it so beautifully. (See Makkai’s essay, “Writing Across Difference”, about how she—a straight woman—wrote successfully from the perspective of a gay man.) It was such a pleasure to not have to read the novel with a critical eye, but just to get lost in it—and I did. One of those reading experiences I will not soon forget, such a perfect pocket in time.

2 thoughts on “Perfect Pockets”

  1. theresa says:

    Such a vivid and compelling novel. It brought back that time when AIDS was first finding its way into our conversations, our lives (two dear friends, now dead, were gay and so dinners with them often involved discussions about the new plague). So much wasn’t known, there were so many rumours, and this novel brought that uncertainty back. Agree that there were unnecessarily complicated strands but mostly? A terrific book.

    1. Kerry says:

      YES YES YES!

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