Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel
2014 National Book Award Finalist A New York Times Bestseller An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. 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. From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2021-01-11

Excellent storytelling about life after a pandemic wipes out most of the world's population and comforts of civilization. Focused on development of inner life of main characters and gives relevance to role of artists in uplifting and connecting us as humans. Ending is open ended and hopeful.

Reviewed: 2019-05-08
A melange of genres combining dystopian, apocalyptic sci-fi with a character study on the waning payoffs of fame and the weaknesses that destroy us all. Incredible writing and stunning narrative structure.

There is a strong author's hand guiding the events and our perceptions but the reader never feels manipulated. I keep wanting to find the fatal flaw in the tapestry woven here yet it holds together. There is an encroaching freedom that grows throughout the book. A hope in the natural state of humanity toward goodness that starts with the first scene and emboldens itself as the characters walk forward into the unknown.

The boogiemen found in this novel stand eye-to-eye with those found in each of our souls and ultimately humans are rendered out to be mostly good and mostly just wanting to transcend the limitations of their existence.

I am haunted by the this book and suspect I'll read it again before the year is out.
Item Posts
@drakewald
@drakewald completed #stationeleven... on 2021-04-27
@jimbauman
@jimbauman completed #stationeleven... on 2019-03-16