Named a must-read by the Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and The L Magazine
Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers will be available in summer 2018.
Rebecca Makkai’s first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction. Now, the award-winning writer, whose stories have appeared in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stories, returns with a highly anticipated collection bearing her signature mix of intelligence, wit, and heart.
A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love, even as her own relationship falls apart. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy has a revelation about his father’s past when a renowned Romanian violinist plays a concert in their home. When the prized elephant of a traveling circus keels over dead, the small-town minister tasked with burying its remains comes to question his own faith. In an unnamed country, a composer records the folk songs of two women from a village on the brink of destruction.
These transporting, deeply moving stories—some inspired by her own family history—amply demonstrate Makkai’s extraordinary range as a storyteller, and confirm her as a master of the short story form.
—O, The Oprah Magazine
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Rebecca Makkai’s short-story collection jumps between periods and places without ever losing its core message of empathy. From the tale of a composer who enters a war zone to record a nearly extinct musical style to the story of a small town deeply affected by the death of a circus elephant, Makkai takes heavy subject matter and adds pitch-perfect streaks of playfulness and humor. These are dark, rich stories—about personal struggles, compassion, and her characters’ humanity. Music for Wartime is the kind of book you’ll want to dip in again and again.
Doublings and parallels distinguish the 17 exceptionally well-told stories in Makkai's (The Hundred-Year House) outstanding debut story collection. In "November Story," a producer for a reality-based television program manipulates its participants into a romantic relationship even as she herself is manipulated in her relationship with her partner. In "Painted Ocean, Painted Ship," an English professor who teaches her pupils Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" experiences a poetically appropriate streak of misfortunes in her career and personal life when she herself accidentally kills an albatross. In "The Briefcase," a political refugee who assumes the identity of an imprisoned professor so thoroughly immerses himself in the man's life that he refuses to accept that he is not the professor when the professor's wife exposes his deception. The structural balance and order of these doublings contrast with the emotional lives of Makkai's characters, whose tenderly wrought frailties and inconsistencies make them seem all the more fallibly human a quality beautifully showcased in "The Worst You Ever Feel," in which a young violinist of Romanian descent realizes that he has been made to travel with his father's aging mentor, who suffered under Nazi oppression, as compensation for his father's flight to freedom in America. Though these stories alternate in time between WWII and the present day, they all are set, as described in the story "Exposition," within "the borders of the human heart" a terrain that their author maps uncommonly well.