Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

20170404Title: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Publisher:Knopf

Publication Date: September 2014

ISBN: 9780385353304

Station Eleven

Synopsis 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.

—–

What a rush! Station Eleven is arguably one of the best novels that I’ve read this year. Spanning the years before and after the disastrous pandemic that obliterates the world’s population, Station Eleven is a story about survival, relationships, and humanity. This apocalyptic story brings together so many perspectives and voices, all of them connected and intertwined in one way or another. The characters are all so real. They love and fall out of love. They are flawed, but a terrible situation helps both the reader and the characters themselves to find their strengths. A stunning situation of unbelievable loss brings out the compassion and the resourcefulness of people–people who lived their whole lives in the comfort of a world cushions and made easy by technology. Suddenly without this luxury, they are left with nothing but their own hands and each other. The few survivors work together to recover and to reestablish life.

Often the question that arises is, can things go back to what they were before? The technology and relics of “before” are preserved and remembered in the Museum of Civilization. Although the characters hope for some sort of return to their old world–they teach the children exactly how the world was before the collapse, a vision that to the children seems like nothing more than the imaginings of a sci-fi novel–the chances of restoring the old normalcy are nearly zero. However, they form communities, restore some order to their lives, and hope that one day they might live as the world lived before the sickness.

Emily St. John Mandel’s voice is strong and confident. Her writing is intelligent and intricately weaved together. Nothing is mentioned without purpose. Every statement brings you one step closer to understanding. Her story rings with truth. It is so plausible, I will admit, that it had me thinking, would I be prepared if this story came true–if I was a survivor of some awful pandemic? Out of darkness, individuals rise with strength and good. They never forget where they come from, but they accept that their lives will never be the same. Yet they do what they can to create a spark of good from the death and terror that surrounds them.

In my opinion, a perfect book. A must read. I think I’ll go back and read it again now.

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