Station Eleven is another read for our Land Mermaids Book Club. I had heard of it before and seen it on multiple “best of” and “read this” lists scattered about the internet. One member’s husband was reading it, and she mentioned it as a possible choice for our next book. The other member and myself jumped at the chance. We got to include said member’s husband at our meeting as well since he had also read it. It’s always fun when one of the guys comes along! We met at a local Thai restaurant, and the food was as pleasant as the conversation.
Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: November 19, 2014
Format I Read: Kindle Version
Synopsis: Kirsten was a child actor who saw the great Arthur Leander die on stage while portraying King Lear. It was a moment she would never forget. It also happened on the same night that a flu pandemic would sweep the globe eradicating civilization as we know it. Twenty years later, Kirsten lives and performs with The Traveling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who travel amongst the remaining settlements of people putting on Shakespearian plays. The troupe happens across a prophet who threatens their way of life, and they must fight to keep themselves and hope alive.
Thoughts: This book weaves the stories of many people, both before and after the pandemic, together. If you don’t enjoy the back and forth through time and people approach to storytelling, I would steer clear. In this instance, I think it enhanced the story. Mandel does a deft job of weaving the storylines together by the end. There is only one character that I felt was left hanging without any real connection to the final denouement. Kirsten is a likable main character but at times a little bland. I enjoyed some of the other characters far more than I did her. My favorite character was Miranda, one of Arthur’s many wives, who felt real and honest.
This is a post-apocalyptic story, but it is not what one would expect. If you are looking for a fast-paced action thriller, move on. There is very little action, and although the troupe encounters an evil prophet bent on destroying them, the fight for their lives is a small part of the book. The focus here is really on human connections. As the story moves back and forth from modern day to post-pandemic, we trace how these few people lived, how they opened themselves to each other, and how those connections lasted even after 99.9% of the population is wiped out; that the true legacy of a world is not its technology or science but its art and humanity. There is suspense as we move to uncover how each character is connected to the last, but this book does not fall in the same vein as other post-apocalyptic novels.
I have seen reviews calling this book both elegiac and melancholy, and I agree. To me, the part I disliked the most was the sadness infused through the whole story. I believe that is what Mandel was going for, and kudos to her, she truly succeeds. However, I’m a pretty happy person most of the time. My husband might disagree when he’s trying to wake me up in the mornings, but he would agree that I like happiness overall. I like peppy music. I love comedic films. I usually prefer my darkness interspersed with some light. There is some light at the end of this book. It is not all doom and gloom, but overall it is a heavy story. Reader, be warned, you will feel all the feelings. If you are in the mood for a well-written piece that will take you on a emotional journey, this book is worth your reading time.