Monday, June 22, 2015

Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Info: Knopf, copyright 2014, 336 pages

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear.  Given Chaudhary, a paparazzp-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid.  A child actress named Kirsten Raymond 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.

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.

~Goodreads Description

An adult book, people!  Go Emily (she writes after giving herself a a high-five)!  I've been wanting to read this one for what feels like forever.  There's just something a traveling symphony and Shakespeare company traversing the wild after a plague destroys almost the entire world.  Sounds happy, doesn't it!

Writing a summary is a bit difficult because there's a lot going on in this book!  The author starts out right before the plague hits, but then jumps back and forth in time (before the plague and after the plague) in the lives of several different characters.  There's Arthur, the actor and playboy who never seems content.  Kirsten, the young girl without a family who must live with the horrors she has seen and done, and Jeevan, who at first seems destined to die almost immediately but finds a courage and strength he didn't know he had.  What's really cool is watching all of the characters lives intertwine during different times in their lives.

This is definitely a dystopia.  It's dark and gritty and honestly quite depressing, but like most dystopias, there are glimmers of hope and the fortitude of the human spirit sprinkled throughout.  Emily St. John Mandel does an excellent job juggling all of their lives.  At times it felt like certain characters were going to slip through the cracks (especially Jeevan), but she picks them up and finds an interesting way to bring them back into the story.

This isn't really a fast-paced novel.  It's not built around adventure and tense moments.  Instead it's a slow journey, much like the traveling symphonies, through time and wilderness.  I highly recommend this title and will hopefully one day have the opportunity to check out more from Emily St. John Mandel.


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