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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Elegiac, unsettling and beautiful

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

From the back of the book:

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 ofKing 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.

Fifteen 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.


A book that lives up to its hype. This is beautifully written. It's well thought out and structured.  Okay, there might be a couple of spots where logic skips a beat (pushing 12 fully loaded shopping carts at one time through a Toronto snowstorm? I don't think so.), and perhaps the epistolary section lags a tad, but when viewed as part of the larger work, these are insignificant quibbles.  


I was enthralled, challenged and haunted every time I put the book down.  Images linger. This is one of those rare books that might actually change the way a person views his or her life, and the world itself. If you are not, after reading this, filled with gratitude for all you have, and wonder at the modern world, there's something wrong with you. I am immensely impressed.  


I recently read ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer, about a similar post-collapse world and was left a bit chilled.  Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, haunted me in similar ways, but is FAR darker. THE DOG STARS, also about a post-epidemic catastrophe, was more violent, although well-written, but ultimately lacked that 'something larger' that makes a fine book into a literary wonder.  St. John Mandel hits the perfect note.  Bravo.