Station Eleven

Station Eleven

4.1 88
by Emily St. John Mandel
     
 

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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells 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.
 
One snowy night Arthur Leander, aSee more details below

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Overview

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells 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.
 
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
 
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
 
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2014
Onstage at a Toronto theater, an aging movie star drops dead while performing the title role in King Lear. As the other cast members share a drink at the lobby bar before heading into the snowy night, none can know what horrors await them: "Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city." The Shakespearean tragedy unfolds into a real-life calamity just before the entire world is overtaken by a catastrophic flu pandemic that will kill off the vast majority of the population. The narrative is organized around several figures present at the theater that night, and the tale travels back and forth in time, from the years before the pandemic through the following 20 years in a world without government, electricity, telecommunications, modern medicine, or transportation. In this lawless and dangerous new reality, a band of actors and musicians performs Shakespeare for the small communities that have come into existence in the otherwise abandoned landscape. In this unforgettable, haunting, and almost hallucinatory portrait of life at the edge, those who remain struggle to retain their basic humanity and make connections with the vanished world through art, memory, and remnants of popular culture. VERDICT This is a brilliantly constructed, highly literary, postapocalyptic page-turner, and should be a breakout novel for Mandel. [See Prepub Alert, 3/24/14.]—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
The New York Times Book Review - Sigrid Nunez
Mandel is an able and exuberant storyteller, and many readers will be won over by her nimble interweaving of her characters' lives and fates…Station Eleven is as much a mystery as it is a post-apocalyptic tale, and Mandel is especially good at planting clues and raising the kind of plot-thickening questions that keep the reader turning pages…If Station Eleven reveals little insight into the effects of extreme terror and misery on humanity, it offers comfort and hope to those who believe, or want to believe, that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.
From the Publisher
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Buzzfeed, and Entertainment Weekly, Time, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Minnesota Public Radio, The Huffington Post, BookPage, Time Out, BookRiot

 
Station Eleven is so compelling, so fearlessly imagined, that I wouldn’t have put it down for anything.”
— Ann Patchett
 
“A superb novel . . . [that] leaves us not fearful for the end of the word but appreciative of the grace of everyday existence.” —San Francisco Chronicle 

“Deeply melancholy, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac . . . A book that I will long remember, and return to.”
— George R. R. Martin

 “Absolutely extraordinary.” —Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus
 
 
“Darkly lyrical. . . . A truly haunting book, one that is hard to put down." —The Seattle Times
 
“Tender and lovely. . . . Equal parts page-turner and poem.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Mesmerizing.” — People
 
 “Mandel delivers a beautifully observed walk through her book’s 21st century world…. I kept putting the book down, looking around me, and thinking, ‘Everything is a miracle.’”—Matt Thompson, NPR  
 
“Magnificent.” —Booklist
 
“My book of the year.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves 
 
“Unmissable. . . . A literary page-turner, impeccably paced, which celebrates the world lost.” —Vulture
 
“Haunting and riveting.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 
Station Eleven is the kind of book that speaks to dozens of the readers in me—the Hollywood devotee, the comic book fan, the cult junkie, the love lover, the disaster tourist. It is a brilliant novel, and Emily St. John Mandel is astonishing.” —Emma Straub, author of The Vacationers
 
“Think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion. . . . Magnetic.”  —Kirkus (starred)

“Even if you think dystopian fiction is not your thing, I urge you to give this marvelous novel a try. . . . [An] emotional and thoughtful story.” —Deborah Harkness, author of The Book of Life

“It’s hard to imagine a novel more perfectly suited, in both form and content, to this literary moment. Station Eleven, if we were to talk about it in our usual way, would seem like a book that combines high culture and low culture—“literary fiction” and “genre fiction.” But those categories aren’t really adequate to describe the book” —The New Yorker

“Audacious. . . . A book about gratitude, about life right now, if we can live to look back on it." —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“A surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid devastation.” —The Washington Post

“Soul-quaking. . . . Mandel displays the impressive skill of evoking both terror and empathy.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“A genuinely unsettling dystopian novel that also allows for moments of great tenderness. Emily St. John Mandel conjures indelible visuals, and her writing is pure elegance.” —Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

“Possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read.” —The Independent (London)

“A firework of a novel . . . full of life and humanity and the aftershock of memory.” —Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls

“One of the best things I’ve read on the ability of art to endure in a good long while.” —Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature

“Will change the post-apocalyptic genre. . . . This isn’t a story about survival, it’s a story about living.” —Boston Herald

 “A big, brilliant, ambitious, genre-bending novel. . . . Hands-down one of my favorite books of the year.” —Sarah McCarry, Tor.com

“Strange, poetic, thrilling, and grim all at once, Station Eleven is a prismatic tale about survival, unexpected coincidences, and the significance of art.” —Bustle, “Best Book of the Month”

“Disturbing, inventive and exciting, Station Eleven left me wistful for a world where I still live.” —Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385353311
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/09/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
392
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Jeevan’s understanding of disaster preparedness was based entirely on action movies, but on the other hand, he’d seen a lot of action movies. He started with water, filled one of the oversized shopping carts with as many cases and bottles as he could fit. There was a moment of doubt on the way to the cash registers, straining against the weight of the cart—was he overreacting?—but there was a certain momentum now, too late to turn back. The clerk raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

 “I’m parked just outside,” he said. “I’ll bring the cart back.” The clerk nodded, tired. She was young, early twenties probably, with dark bangs that she kept pushing out of her eyes. He forced the impossibly heavy cart outside and half-pushed, half-skidded through the snow at the exit. There was a long ramp down into a small park-like arrangement of benches and planters. The cart gained speed on the incline, bogged down in deep snow at the bottom of the ramp and slid sideways into a planter.

It was eleven twenty. The supermarket closed in forty minutes. He was imagining how long it would take to bring the cart up to Frank’s apartment, to unload it, the time required for tedious explanations and reassurances of sanity before he could return to the grocery store for more supplies. Could there be any harm in leaving the cart here for the moment? There was no one on the street. He called Hua on his way back into the store.

 “What’s happening now?” He moved quickly through the store while Hua spoke. Another case of water—Jeevan was under the impression that one can never have too much—and then cans and cans of food, all the tuna and beans and soup on the shelf, pasta, anything that looked like it might last a while. The hospital was full of flu patients and the situation was identical at the other hospitals in the city. The ambulance service was overwhelmed. Thirty-seven patients had died now, including every patient who’d been on the Moscow flight and two E.R. nurses who’d been on duty when the first patients came in. The shopping cart was almost unmanageably heavy. Hua said he’d called his wife and told her to take the kids and leave the city tonight, but not by airplane. Jeevan was standing by the cash register again, the clerk scanning his cans and packages. The part of the evening that had transpired in the Elgin Theatre seemed like possibly a different lifetime. The clerk was moving very slowly. Jeevan passed her a credit card and she scrutinized it as though she hadn’t just seen it five or ten minutes ago.

 “Take Laura and your brother,” Hua said, “and leave the city tonight.”
 
“I can’t leave the city tonight, not with my brother. I can’t rent a wheelchair van at this hour.”

 In response there was only a muffled sound. Hua was coughing.
 
“Are you sick?” Jeevan was pushing the cart toward the door.

 “Goodnight, Jeevan.” Hua disconnected and Jeevan was alone in the snow. He felt possessed. The next cart was all toilet paper. The cart after that was more canned goods, also frozen meat and aspirin, garbage bags, bleach, duct tape.

 “I work for a charity,” he said to the girl behind the cash register, his third or fourth time through, but she wasn’t paying much attention to him. She kept glancing up at the small television above the film development counter, ringing his items through on autopilot. Jeevan called Laura on his sixth trip through the store, but his call went to voicemail.

 “Laura,” he began. “Laura.” He thought it better to speak to her directly and it was already almost eleven fifty, there wasn’t time for this. Filling the cart with more food, moving quickly through this bread-and-flower-scented world, this almost-gone place, thinking of Frank in his 22nd floor apartment, high up in the snowstorm with his insomnia and his book project, his day-old New York Times and his Beethoven. Jeevan wanted desperately to reach him. He decided to call Laura later, changed his mind and called the home line while he was standing by the checkout counter, mostly because he didn’t want to make eye contact with the clerk.
 
“Jeevan, where are you?” She sounded slightly accusatory. He handed over his credit card.
 
“Are you watching the news?”
 
“Should I be?”

“There’s a flu epidemic, Laura. It’s serious.”

“That thing in Russia or wherever? I knew about that.”

“It’s here now. It’s worse than we’d thought. I’ve just been talking to Hua. You have to leave the city.” He glanced up in time to see the look the checkout girl gave him.

Have to? What? Where are you, Jeevan?” He was signing his name on the slip, struggling with the cart toward the exit, where the order of the store ended and the frenzy of the storm began. It was difficult to steer the cart with one hand. There were already five carts parked haphazardly between benches and planters, dusted now with snow.

“Just turn on the news, Laura.”

“You know I don’t like to watch the news before bed. Are you having an anxiety attack?”

“What? No. I’m going to my brother’s place to make sure he’s okay.”

“Why wouldn’t he be?”

“You’re not even listening. You never listen to me.” Jeevan knew this was probably a petty thing to say in the face of a probable flu pandemic, but couldn’t resist. He plowed the cart into the others and dashed back into the store. “I can’t believe you left me at the theatre,” he said. “You just left me at the theatre performing CPR on a dead actor.”

“Jeevan, tell me where you are.”

“I’m in a grocery store.” It was eleven fifty-five. This last cart was all grace items: vegetables, fruit, bags of oranges and lemons, tea, coffee, crackers, salt, preserved cakes. “Look, Laura, I don’t want to argue. This flu’s serious, and it’s fast.”

 “What’s fast?”

“This flu, Laura. It’s really fast. Hua told me. It’s spreading so quickly. I think you should get out of the city.” At the last moment, he added a bouquet of daffodils.
           
 

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