I purchased a copy of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel just after Christmas. I had heard so many wonderful things about it and knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Station Eleven was a tough read for me, not because the plot lacked intrigue or because the characters were not relatable, but because it actually frightened me. Spanning decades, this novel tells an unparalleled eerie account of life before, during, and after an incurable, highly contagious, and deadly flu takes over the world and collapses civilization.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in timefrom the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remainsthis suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
Mandel tenderly and honestly depicts flaws and beauty within humanity. She discusses love, hate, fame, art, and empathy with perfect execution and wonderful dialogue. I enjoyed the different journey each character went on and I loved how their lives connected. I was blown away by how velvety smooth the story went back and forth from character to location to before the collapse and then afterwards. Mandel’s story sparks fear in her reader but also an abundance of contemplation. I thought long and hard about the importance of making the most of each moment, of memories, and of how quickly life can change. I thought a lot about what motivates human beings to do what they do and love who they love. I thought a lot about appreciation and contentment, about being less dependent on technology, and taking chances that will change the world. Mostly, I thought about life and how well Station Eleven explains every single aspect of it.
“I’m talking about these people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They’ve done what’s expected of them. They want to do something different but it’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they’re trapped…”
— Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)