Station Eleven: A Review

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, I rely on book clubs and recommendations from certain friends and influencers, but I don’t really pay attention to plot. I want to be surprised. So, leave it to me to unknowingly pick up a book about a dystopian era after a flu pandemic.

I chose this book because the author goes back and forth in time, connecting all of the stories and timelines at the end. The flu in this story also has a shorter incubation time and a higher mortality rate. It was written in 2014, probably after the SARS outbreak as a “what-if a pandemic was really bad” writing prompt. But the character pulling seven carts from a grocery store to hole up in an apartment after getting a call from an ER doctor friend warning him of the coming virus was definitely relatable in 2020.

After 99% of the world’s population dies, the ones that are left are without electricity, internet, or running water. They leave their homes to camp in Wal-marts or airports in small communities. Kirsten travels with the Traveling Symphony, a nomadic group that plays music and puts on Shakespearean plays, from one community to the next over a select route, never going more south than they have to. Upon arriving in one town that they had been to in previous years, they realize that the town was taken over by a prophet and too dangerous to stay for too long.

It was interesting to see how all of the characters dealt with change. The story spans probably about 40 years before the pandemic, following the story of an actor named Arthur Leander and all of the people that are in his life on to about 20 years after the pandemic with Kirsten and her Traveling Symphony. Most of the characters that connect to each other, connect through Arthur, and it’s interesting to see how affects a lot of the outcomes of different characters (even though he dies from a heart attack in the first chapter before the pandemic actually begins). It’s a different look at legacy.

One of the main themes that threaded through all the chapters is this idea that people are going through their lives without knowing when it will end. I could see how it affected me by the end because a character said they would do something the next day, and I wondered if they would actually be able to do that thing. There’s a sadness to the book, so much loss and uncertainty but there are small moments of hope that keep the book from being completely depressing.

There is profanity in the book. Sexual content included sex implied in relationships, maybe one brief sex scene mentioned, but nothing graphic. Also, some implications in child brides. The violent content includes a lot of death, murders, scars, and guns and knives usage.

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