Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a captivating, exploratory speculative fiction novel set in a pandemic-ravaged United States. The narrative follows the entwined stories of several people across time, all connected to an actor who dies the night the pandemic begins. St. John Mandel’s writing is intimate and lyrical in this melancholy work tackling regrets, fear, and how people survive through the challenges of life both epic and normal. Readers who love haunting stories and flawed characters with past regrets will find a lot to appreciate in this unique title.
A friend recommended this book to me almost 3 years ago, and I finally picked it up to coincide with my own experience of a milder but still devastating pandemic. I’m glad I did. Station Eleven is not held together by a central linear plot, and instead examines humanity and how people choose to live their lives through woven narratives across time. St. John Mandel’s writing comes across as contemplative, but not pretentious–a danger I’ve found with other dystopian future adult books and works with connected-but-disconnected narrators. Some of the anxieties and fears from the storyline taking place during the start of the pandemic rang true to the world around me as I was reading and required some extra processing time. But that time was worth it, and soon after I was able to ease into the book and enjoy the mix of rumination and waves of suspense as plots ebbed and peaked. While Station Eleven wasn’t the book I expected it to be, and not quite the reading experience I initially sought out, I appreciate what it was, the beautiful weaving of characters’ experiences, and the reflective wisdom each of the characters grasps over their arcs.