Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Summary from Goodreads:
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
A novel in which everyone (well, almost everyone) dies of the flu! As a low-grade germaphobe, this book review is brought to you by my favorite little friend, Waterless Hand Sanitizer. Which I have been using a lot more of since I read this book.
|Don't leave home without it!|
I suppose that Station Eleven could be summarized as an apocalypse novel. Catastrophic flu, 99% of the population dead, bye bye Internet, etc. If you're into that sort of reading, you'll certainly find it here. However, that simple description also does the book a bit of a disservice, as it has a lot of the literary merits that might be lacking in a more action-based novel. It's not entirely an Oryx and Crake, or The Road, but it's also not The Hunger Games or Feed. Somewhere in the in-between.
I loved this book. Mandel wrapped me into the post-apocalyptic world that she created right from page one, and I never wanted to put the book down once she did. Though truthfully, I'd be lying if I said that it left me feeling happy at the end. Bereft would be a more likely descriptor. There's just so much sadness to process here. Of course, you have the devastation of the pandemic, but then there's all of the interpersonal relationships between the characters--lots of divorce, death, abandonment, violence. Don't get me wrong, the book is amazingly well-written, it's just not a feel-good story by any means. I was deeply affected by these characters by the end of the book, flu pandemic or not, which says a lot about the quality of the writing.
I can't pinpoint the one thing that made this book great for me. It's just all of it...the alternating storylines (which cover both pre- and post-pandemic), the world building, the story-within-a-story (as the title comes from a comic book that is introduced in the novel)...this book is a puzzle that Mandel put together perfectly. I can't think of an adult fiction reader who this would not appeal to in some way. (Unless a germaphobic-reader-who-only-loves-happy-books is out there...then by all means, avoid.)
Station Eleven. Read it. Love it.
Be honest, people--based on your survival/sanitation skillz, what are your chances of surviving the flu-based apocalypse??