#Staffpick: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven: a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. 333 pages. Harper Collins Publishers 2014. 9781443434874 Fiction, Post Apocalyptic. Available in print, audio cd, eAudio and eBook formats.

Snow falls outside a Toronto theatre.  Arthur Leander is fifty one years old; a Hollywood actor playing King Lear for the last time.  He speaks, but the lines are wrong… then he stumbles.  A paramedic has already left his seat in the audience.  Arthur collapses on stage and a child actor looks on crying. 

Outside the theatre, the clock of civilization is winding down.  A pandemic is spreading across the globe that will claim the lives of ninety-nine percent of the world’s population.

 Flash forward twenty years. 

The child actor is now grown.  She travels along the Great Lakes performing Shakespeare with “The Traveling Symphony”.  They tour the dangerous outposts of the waste land that remains. 

Station Eleven drew me ironically, because of its realism.  Despite its classification as dystopian, the initial conflict bears striking resemblance to our current pandemic.  St. John Mandel looks beyond the initial devastation, to that which remains twenty years later. It is a somber character driven work, with a pace by turns pensive and dizzying.  Station Eleven is an intricately written web about the power of art.  The novel reveals our interconnectedness, the far reaching affect of our flaws and above all the beauty in our story.

Readers who have enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale   by Margaret Atwood, or The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard will be engrossed by Station Eleven.

St. John Mandel has given voice to the many fears we have for our future, and has celebrated that which is most beautiful within us.  Our vulnerability, our storytelling and all of our imperfect beauty is recorded in Station Eleven like an elegy for humanity itself.