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Station Eleven

To do: Read a book about a pandemic, while in a pandemic.

Whelp, check that one off my bucket list!

(Side note: Why does this remind me so much of The Office scene when Kevin wants to experience eating a pig in a blanket, while in a blanket? I am chalking this one up to that pandemic making my sense of humor even weirder than normal.)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a book written well before its time. Emily St. Mandel has crafted an apocalyptic novel following a worldwide pandemic that wipes out most of the world's population. The pandemic starts as a deadly flu that spreads rapidly via airlines and soon wipes out most of the population. In addition to people dying from the virus, the world enters anarchy and basics we take for granted, such as running water and electricity soon start to fail. Station Eleven switches between timelines of before and years after the pandemic and is told from the perspective of multiple characters whose story lines intertwine with one another. The main protagonist, Kirsten, is part of a post-pandemic camp of musicians and thespians known as the Traveling Symphony, that travels town to town, performing Shakespeare and music to the town's inhabitants. Their journey hits a hitch when they come across a town where a religious fanatic leader seems to have taken control. (Did someone say "cult"?! I'm in!)

I caution those of you who this story might be triggering. We are talking about a deadly virus and the irony of the similarities of our current pandemic could be very triggering for some. For whatever reason, being the masochist that I am, I have been weirdly intrigued by pandemic books lately. I justify this weird interest by telling myself I am reading up on how to survive this times. Between Station Eleven and Severance by Ling Ma, my pandemic survival skills are set!

Mel's Thoughts:

This story hits a bit close to home in the beginning. The way the pandemic initially spreads via airline carriers and the uncertainty and fear was reminiscing of how we all felt this past March when coronavirus entered the US. Even though Station Eleven is a pandemic book, the story does not focus solely on the fall of society, but describes it through character flashbacks. Kirsten story takes place almost 20 years after the beginning of the pandemic. I loved how the book jumps right into her story, yet brings us back to how she got there. Meanwhile, another characters story unfolds as his plane to LA lands unexpectedly in the middle of nowhere, Midwest Michigan, and he lives his days out with other airline flyers in an airport terminal.

The "Easter eggs" in this book spoke to my bookworm heart. I love when an author can craft a story in such a way that they drop hints as you go and tie up lose ends chapters later. Every time I made one of these connections, it made me appreciate St. John Mandel's writing even more.

This story could have been 600 pages long and I am shocked St. John Mandel was able to squeeze all she did in such a small book. I could keep reading about these characters and it would never grow old. Between the Traveling Symphony and the airport inhabitants, I was completely enthralled with their stories of survival.


5 stars-suburb writing and storytelling

Favorite Quotes:

"Survival is insufficient."

"Hell is the absence of people you long for."

"What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you've lost."

Other pandemic books to check out:

Severance - click here for my review (this happens to be a favorite of mine)

The Dreamers - click here for my review

The Pull of the Stars

The Stand

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