Station Eleven is much more than an apocalyptic dystopian novel; it’s a simply worded, deftly crafted story of relationships, fears and survival. Some relationships cross generations, and others cross generations without the participants ever realizing it.
Beginning in the present time, an actor has a heart attack while on stage. We are present as a man attempts to resuscitate him. That night an event occurred that the narrator feared “…was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through his life.” We stay with this character for the first section of the book and learn about the life-changing event.
We jump ahead 20 years into the future and follow seemingly unrelated characters as they travel through the wilderness performing Shakespeare. “Sayid, circling her in a tuxedo that Kirsten found in a dead man’s closet.” The storyline continues to jump back and forth between these and several other characters. Emily St. John Mandel has savvy with a needle as she pulls threads of the stories through each other in unexpected and touching ways.
(pic of Emily St. John Mandel from The New York Times)
The diversity of sex, race and class of the characters is natural and appealing, as is the balance of vague plot lines to the ones that end with a definitive period.
One character has a love hate relationship with the small island of his birth compared to the complex city life of his successful adulthood. “It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”
Another character chooses to encase herself in a shell of protection, not allowing herself to feel by repeating the phrase, “I repent nothing.” This same character writes the words, “I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth,” in a book which greatly impacts some of the survivors.
In an attempt to avoid revealing any of the fulfilling plot discoveries that one experiences while reading Station Eleven, let me leave my review with the reassurance that this was the rare title that each member of my book club reviewed as “Loved.”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pub date: September 9, 2014
Page Count: 333