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My new library is hosting an Extreme Book Nerd reading challenge this year, in which we have to read 50 books in 50 different categories. One of my resolutions is to read more this year, so this was a perfect opportunity for me. That means I’ll be posting lots of book reviews this year, and I’d love to hear what you’re reading too! If you’d like to play along with the reading challenge, check out the categories here.
Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
EBN Category: A book with an illness in it
Content Warning: Strong expletives scattered throughout
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde 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.
Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
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.
Whoa. This was seriously good. I loved the way the author wove the lives of the characters together, and the non-linear narrative was really fun. The “prophet” was a terrifying villain, and it was interesting to read a pandemic book that focused more on character development than on doom and gloom. I LOVED the Traveling Symphony’s motto: “Survival is not enough.” It was very interesting to reflect on the value of art and culture in a world where survival alone is a struggle.
Score: (4 / 5)