This is my third reading of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. It is one of my favorite books of the past few years, a book that I find to be nearly perfect. This reread was for Book Club. It is also an extremely prescient time to be reading a book about a global pandemic, but I’m glad that Covid-19 isn’t nearly as devastating as the Georgian Flu.
What I was struck with this time through was how Mandel structured the pass-offs between characters. On my first read through I remember being thrown off by how Mandel wove the story so that she pump-faked me time and again, catching me off balance by where or when the story was going next. I loved it then, but it wasn’t the experience I had this time. Mandel doesn’t equally balance our time with characters or settings in Station Eleven, and it creates a beautiful eerie quality to the book. But its skillfully done, this time through I could see the details of each pass-off, each time she sent us down a new road, each careful construction to open the story even further, to dig in just a little deeper. The story is full of tension because you never know when you’re going to see a character again and if perhaps their storyline has reached the end, and while the last two times through that made me sad, this time it made me cherish the moments with each character just a little more.
The book is full of visual cues and references, from the items from Arthur’s (and Miranda’s) life that make their way out into the post-flu world, to the art described in the book-within-the-book Station Eleven that Miranda creates, to the beautiful descriptions of the world the characters are in, how nature takes back over, what true devastation and collapse look like, to the world that they lost, that we are very much still in.
I really love this book, and I hope you’ve read it and love it to. Don’t be afraid to read it now, but maybe check in with yourself first, just to be sure.