Not The Best Book To Read During Cold & Flu Season…

Hi, I finished book #70 and just a quick disclaimer: I loved it so, so much. Like one of my favorite all year, so this is going to be gushing. It’s been a while since I’ve stayed up way too late to finish a book just because I felt like I could not rest until I knew what happened, but this book gave that to me last night. As a result, I’m really tired and today is going to be long, but it was worth it.

I’m also a little bit late to this book, so at this point I would say believe all the hype about Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. That’s the book I just finished and it was so great. 

So this book begins with the death of Arthur Leander, an actor in his fifties, while he’s performing the part of King Lear. Following this event, the book is told from the perspectives of various people who orbited Arthur in life; an ex-wife, a young girl who had acted in his last performance with him, a childhood friend, etc.

Shortly after Arthur’s death, the world erupts violently with a fast-moving and deadly flu virus. In less than a week, civilization has all but disappeared (died) and the survivors are left to make sense of starting over.

Station Eleven is referring to a fictional, outer space setting from a pet project comic series by Arthur’s first ex-wife, Miranda. In this novel, she is one of the key characters whose comics bring people together twenty years after the world and civilization ended.

The author is a genius (do I overuse this term? I think I do) in what she does with her non-linear timeline. In the chapters following Arthur’s death, we read from the perspective of Jeevan, a previous paparazzo and genuine Arthur Leander fan, as he holes up with his brother watching the world end from the safety of their smartly stocked apartment. Then we switch to Kirsten (the girl who acted with Arthur during his last ever performance and saw him die on stage) twenty years into this post-apocalyptic world.

Then the next chapter would be from the perspective of Miranda, Arthur’s first wife, and that would mostly be a flashback to a point long before his death. This switching off was so cool because you’re getting to know these characters before, during, and after this flu hits and changes everything, but you’re not sure who survives the flu and who doesn’t because of the time variation. Ah, so cool.

And then everyone essentially gets closer and closer to each other during the present day, although it took me longer than it probably should have to figure out how this mysterious, violent, delusional Prophet character fits into this Arthur-centric cast of characters. (If you haven’t read this book, this probably makes no sense, so sorry. But if you have, did you guys figure out who it was before it dawned on Clark?! Because I sure didn’t. My jaw dropped as that chapter ended.)

It also does a great job of putting into perspective how much we take for granted, and how little we’d even be able to explain about our existence on this planet should all of our little luxuries disappear.

It was tense, heartwarming, bittersweet, and hard to read at times, but I should have gone to bed last night before midnight and I found myself hunched over this book until well past 2 a.m. I think you’re missing out if you don’t read it.

Oh yeah, also really freaked me out reading this on the subway surrounded by people coughing and sneezing. I was definitely a little more attuned to that while I read this book, for better or worse. ◊

Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

– page 144

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