Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

Article by marycatherine

I closed this book after reading the final page, sighed, and said to my boyfriend, “This book is what books are supposed to be.” I was reading passages out loud, evaluating how I look at the world, and always desperate for one more page, one more chapter before I go to sleep. 


Every summary you read of this book will be woefully incomplete, including mine, because the plot here is a subtle and complex staging area for this character and prose-driven story. This book is about Arthur Leander, a famous actor with a small town past and a string of ex-wives, who dies onstage during a performance of King Lear in Toronto. True. This book is about Jeevan, a former paparazzo/journalist and one of the first to be warned of the global pandemic Georgian Flu on the night Leander dies. Also true. This book is about the Traveling Symphony, a Shakespeare troupe that travels around the former Lake Michigan twenty years after the Georgia Flu wipes out 99.9% of humanity and sends the world into rural, lawless chaos. True again. Jumping through time and from character to character, Mandel shows the connections--some three-strand, others tenuous--between each of these stories and experiences. Just when you think she’s expanded the novel’s world, you realize that she has, in fact, doubled back and returned to center. This novel is a spirograph drawing, in which a number of arcs intersect in a central point, forming a tight, dynamic whole.


So what’s at the center of this novel that makes it so special? STATION ELEVEN celebrates the humanity of the technological age and finds wonder in the minutiae of everyday, First World experiences; the accessibility of news, a phone’s ability to connect people across continents, the light inside a refrigerator. It leads you to marvel at the complexity of the world around us and all the moving parts that keep it running (relatively) smoothly. What’s more, Mandel grounds these explorations in realistic depictions of human crisis reactions, and avoids stereotypes of the most extreme heroes-and-villains identities that are so common to post-apocalyptic narratives. Everyone is traumatized. Everyone. That trauma takes on different shapes, and expresses itself in memories, movements, violence, and friendship. Lyrical reverie rubs against fear, intersects with families, travels alongside loss, to inspire feelings you won’t soon shake.


Station Eleven: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - September 9th, 2014

Article Type Terms: