“We want to be remembered”: Station Eleven (2014) by Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 9th 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adult, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Literary, Science Fiction
Pages: 352

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. 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. [GoodReads]

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

I know this book has been reviewed so many times in 2014, but I HAD to share this on the blog after I read it at the end of the year and it became one of my new favorites. Enjoy!

Illuminations of Spirituality in Station Eleven:

Station Eleven was absolutely amazing and thought-provoking in all the ways a work of literature should be. Thought-provoking, beautiful, and flawless in its ability to remind the reader of what’s the most important in the wake of loss and tragedy: relationships.

In the beginning of the book, we meet Kirsten as a child actress in King Lear. The story follows her closely when it skips about fifteen years into the future after the horrendous flu has ravaged the population. Kirsten is now part of a traveling theatre troupe and we learn more about her life after the terrible flu, but we gain this knowledge through a series of flashbacks that continue throughout the entire narrative. In fact, this is how we find out about other figures in the story—Miranda, Arthur, and the Prophet.

We are more connected than we think, and our actions have consequences, some more earth-shattering than others. This is another theme threaded throughout the book that really made me think about my own world.

Though we are not currently facing a deadly flu (thankfully!), I was reminded of the importance of striving to connect with people. Think of E.M. Forster’s famous line from Howard’s End: “Only connect.” Though this book was written decades later, I think it’s echoing Forster’s call to connect with people—to really “see” people. I love books that accomplish this—these are the kind of stories I think are especially “illuminating” because of what they say about the human experience and what’s significant for the human heart.

Who I Would Recommend Station Eleven To:

Even if you aren’t a fan of YA or Adult Science Fiction or Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I will still recommend this book to you. Because this isn’t just a work of science fiction by a brilliant Canadia author. If you appreciate beautiful prose, fascinating and complex characters, a plot that could go anywhere, and a thought-provoking vision of the world, grab this book now! This may go on my Permanent Favorites shelf and is easily one of my favorite reads for 2014. I had been warned I might like this one—so many bloggers had given this book glowing reviews, so I was excited. And the book did not disappoint.

The Final Illumination:

If you look at my copy of Station Eleven, you’ll see it tagged with at least a dozen of my floral page stickies, because there were so MANY passages worth tagging. The author just has this way of crafting beautiful prose that stays with you after you’ve finished a chapter. In addition to containing content that nurtured my own spirituality by reminding me that people are what’s important, and that my connections with the people I encounter every day are significant—even if I don’t know the person—the way the story was told is another element of its spirituality. I think that the gorgeous way the author structured her narrative with flashbacks and passages that really called to the heart of the reader is a spiritual aspect of the story in itself. I don’t often see this with a book, but Station Eleven has fast become one of my favorite reads of 2014 (I read it right at the end of the year!) and this is one reason for it: its rich spiritual depth.

It’s not a “loud” book but a mysterious, beautiful, and luminous one. At its heart is a story of what happens to the human spirit in the wake of a terrible tragedy. In this case, it’s the Georgia flu, which wipes out about 99% of the population. But even then, people survive.

Passages of Illumination:

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

“A fragment for my friend–If your soul left this earth I would follow and find you Silent, my starship suspended in night.”

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“But these thoughts broke apart in his head and were replaced by strange fragments: This is my soul and the world unwinding, this is my heart in the still winter air.”

“We long only to go home,’ ” Kirsten said.

Did you read Station Eleven? What stood out to you about this book? What did it make you think about? It’s such a thought-provoking book—I think it’s the perfect pick for a Book Club.

Happy Reading if you are planning to sit down with this for the first time. I don’t think you’ll regret it.  

What Katie Read