I came across this book due to all the metaphorical trumpets heralding it via Pajiba, and dove in, excited to see what all the hubbub was about. As a big fan of post-apocalyptic literature I am both the target audience, and a cautious critic, and I think this book is absolute perfection.
When a virus wipes out 99.9 percent of the world’s population, the survivors must carve out an existence for themselves, and live with the echoes of those who were lost. Station Eleven follows the lives of several characters, both pre and post apocalypse. We learn who they were, and who they are in this new world. Sometimes I find multiple interlocking character arcs to be a distracting device, but St. John Mandel weaves them together expertly, and only casually, so that it doesn’t seem forced, but just evidence of what a “small world” it truly is.
The ending came about rather abruptly. When I realized how little was left, I was skeptical that it would wrap up in a satisfactory way, but I was pleased with it on all fronts. In a weird way, it reminds me of the end of Steel Magnolias. (As a southern woman, I’m always only one moment away from referencing Steel Magnolias).
At the end of the movie, (spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the amazingness that is Steel Magnolias) after the death of Shelby, Shelby’s mother M’Lynn pushes her grandson on a swing and is pleased to learn that someone might name their baby after Shelby, tickled “pink” in fact, which is Shelby’s favorite color. She smiles bittersweetly and remarks, “That’s how it should be. Life goes on.”
At the center of this fictional post-apocalyptic there is overwhelming tragedy and loss, but people must go on. It isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t even always terribly eventful, but it is a living.
I have suggested this read for my newly formed book club, and I’m glad I did. I think it will provide thoughtful discussion, which is what I’m looking for in a book club, and I can only hope that they enjoy it was much as I did.