NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • A PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FINALIST • Set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse—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. • Now an original series on HBO Max. • Over one million copies sold!
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
Look for Emily St. John Mandel’s bestselling new novel, Sea of Tranquility!
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
You’ve never encountered a post-apocalyptic tale quite like Station Eleven, which follows (among other things) a troupe of Shakespearean actors who traverse the blasted American Midwest to keep the spirit of theater and music alive. Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel is sure to put this indie darling on the map. Her writing is startlingly elegant, and the interwoven stories of the book’s characters—who yearn for long-gone comforts like TV sitcoms, airplanes, and the Internet—seem splendidly and heartbreakingly real.
Few themes are as played-out as that of post-apocalypse, but St. John Mandel (The Lola Quartet) finds a unique point of departure from which to examine civilization's wreckage, beginning with a performance of King Lear cut short by the onstage death of its lead, Arthur Leander, from an apparent heart attack. On hand are an aspiring paramedic, Jeevan Chaudary, and a young actress, Kirsten Raymonde; Leander's is only the first death they will witness, as a pandemic, the so-called Georgia Flu, quickly wipes out all but a few pockets of civilization. Twenty years later, Kirsten, now a member of a musical theater troupe, travels through a wasteland inhabited by a dangerous prophet and his followers. Guided only by the graphic novel called Station Eleven given to her by Leander before his death, she sets off on an arduous journey toward the Museum of Civilization, which is housed in a disused airport terminal. Kirsten is not the only survivor with a curious link to the actor: the story explores Jeevan's past as an entertainment journalist and, in a series of flashbacks, his role in Leander's decline. Also joining the cast are Leander's first wife, Miranda, who is the artist behind Station Eleven, and his best friend, 70-year-old Clark Thompson, who tends to the terminal settlement Kirsten is seeking. With its wild fusion of celebrity gossip and grim future, this book shouldn't work nearly so well, but St. John Mandel's examination of the connections between individuals with disparate destinies makes a case for the worth of even a single life.
Searching for Belonging
Emily St. John Mandel is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her style of science fiction is so grounded in the human experience of the setting and doesn’t get lost in the scene setting that happens to some authors. In this one we get a deeply personal view of what the end looks like and potential rebirth of civilization.
Even with that bleak premise Mandel pushes us to hope against hope. Developing characters and plot lines that lure you in deeper and deeper. Through these protagonists and antagonists we see how you can lose parts of yourself in order to survive. Mandel prompts us to think of where we go for hope when the foundations of what we understand crumble?
The answer I took away lies in the power of community to create belonging. That conclusion is portrayed to us through clever use of time shifting and perspective swapping that feels like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. Mandel also subtly shows us how the creations we put out create permanence even if their meanings change. Much like her own marvelous books.
Not at all what I expected in the BEST way possible.
I’m not a great writer but all I need to say is read it and you won’t be disappointed.