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Station Eleven
     

Station Eleven

4.1 105
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, a

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.

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
2014 National Book Award Finalist

Winner of the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award

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, Book Riot

Praise for Station Eleven:

“Deeply melancholy, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac . . . A book that I will long remember, and return to.”
— George R. R. Martin
 
Station Eleven is so compelling, so fearlessly imagined, that I wouldn’t have put it down for anything.”
— Ann Patchett

“Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, Station Eleven, begins with a spectacular end. One night in a Toronto theater, onstage performing the role of King Lear, 51-year-old Arthur Leander has a fatal heart attack. There is barely time for people to absorb this shock when tragedy on a considerably vaster scale arrives in the form of a flu pandemic so lethal that, within weeks, most of the world’s population has been killed . . . Mandel is an exuberant storyteller . . .  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 . . .  Mandel is especially good at planting clues and raising the kind of plot-thickening questions that keep the reader turning pages . . .  Station Eleven 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 when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.”
— Sigrid Nunez, New York Times Book Review

“Last month, when the fiction finalists for the National Book Awards were announced, one stood out from the rest: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel . . . Station Eleven is set in a familiar genre universe, in which a pandemic has destroyed civilization. The twist—the thing that makes Station Eleven National Book Award material—is that the survivors are artists . . . 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 . . .  It brings together these different fictional genres and the values—observation, feeling, erudition—to which they’re linked. . . Instead of being compressed, it blossoms.”
— Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker

“Emily St. John Mandel’s tender and lovely new novel, Station Eleven . . . miraculously reads like equal parts page-turner and poem . . . One of her great feats is that the story feels spun rather than plotted, with seamless shifts in time and characters. . . “Because survival is insufficient,” reads a line taken from Star Trek spray painted on the Traveling Symphony’s lead wagon. The genius of Mandel’s fourth novel . . . is that she lives up to those words. This is not a story of crisis and survival. It’s one of art and family and memory and community and the awful courage it takes to look upon the world with fresh and hopeful eyes.”
— Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly

“Spine-tingling . . . Ingenious . . . Ms. Mandel gives the book some extra drama by positioning some of her characters near the brink of self-discovery as disaster approaches. The plague hits so fast that it takes them all by surprise . . . Ms. Mandel is able to tap into the poignancy of lives cut short at a terrible time — or, in one case, of a life that goes on long after wrongs could be righted." 
— Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“In Station Eleven , by Emily St. John Mandel, the Georgia Flu becomes airborne the night Arthur Leander dies during his performance as King Lear. Within months, all airplanes are grounded, cars run out of gas and electricity flickers out as most of the world’s population dies. The details of Arthur’s life before the flu and what happens afterward to his friends, wives and lovers create a surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid such devastation. Among the survivors are Kirsten, a child actor at the time of Arthur’s death who lives with no memory of what happened to her the first year after the flu . . . A gorgeous retelling of Lear unfolds through Arthur’s flashbacks and Kirsten’s attempt to stay alive.”
— Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post

“My book of the year is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I chose this book, because it surprised me. I’ve read a number of post-apocalyptic novels over the years and most of them are decidedly ungenerous toward humans and their brutishness. Station Eleven has their same sense of danger and difficulty, but still reads as more of a love letter — acknowledging all those things we would most miss and all those things we would still have.”
— Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"I get slightly angry when I finish any good book — I’m miffed that I’m not reading it anymore, and that I’ll never be able to read it again for the first time. The last good book I read was Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.”
— Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket 
 
“Even if you think dystopian fiction is not your thing, I urge you to give this marvelous novel a try. The plot revolves around a pandemic that shatters the world as we know it into isolated settlements and the Traveling Symphony, a roving band of actors and musicians who remind those who survived the catastrophe about hope and humanity. The questions raised by this emotional and thoughtful story—why does my life matter? what distinguishes living from surviving?—will stay with you long after the satisfying conclusion.”
— Doborah Harkness, author of The Book of Life 

“Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven sensitively explores the dynamics of . . . a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony whose musicians and actors perform Shakespeare for small communities around the Great Lakes. Ms. Mandel . . . writ[es] with cool intelligence and poised understatement. Her real interest is in examining friendships and love affairs and the durable consolations of art.”
— Sam Sacks,  The Wall Street Journal

“This book isn't exactly a feel-good romp, but for a post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven comes remarkably close . . . Emily St. John Mandel delivers a beautifully observed walk through her book's 21st century world, as seen by characters who are grappling with what they've lost and what remains. While I was reading it, I kept putting the book down, looking around me, and thinking, ‘Everything is a miracle.’”
— NPR.org

“[A] complete post-apocalyptic world is rendered in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, in which a hyper-virulent flu wipes out the majority of the earth’s population and the surviving one percent band into self-governing pods. Think of a more hopeful and female-informed rendering of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . . . Mandel’s novel feels taut and assured... By having a pre- and post-pandemic split screen, she is able to ask questions about artistic creation, fame, and faith against the backgrounds of plenty and scarcity. There is the page-turning plot and compelling characters, but more importantly in a novel that engages with social issues are the questions—not answered but asked.”
— Rob Spillman, Guernica

“So impressive . . . Station Eleven is terrifying, reminding us of how paper-thin the achievements of civilization are. But it’s also surprisingly — and quietly — beautiful . . . As Emily Dickinson knew and as Mandel reminds us, there’s a sumptuousness in destitution, a painful beauty in loss . . . A superb novel. Unlike most postapocalyptic works, it leaves us not fearful for the end of the world but appreciative of the grace of everyday existence.”
— Anthony Domestic, San Francisco Chronicle

"Darkly lyrical . . . An appreciation of art, love and the triumph of the human spirit . . . Mandel effortlessly moves between time periods . . . The book is full of beautiful set pieces and landscapes; big, bustling cities before and during the outbreak, an eerily peaceful Malaysian seashore, and an all-but-abandoned Midwest airport-turned museum that becomes an all important setting for the last third of the book . . . Mandel ties up all the loose ends in a smooth and moving way, giving humanity to all her characters — both in a world that you might recognize as the one we all live in today (and perhaps take for granted) and a post-apocalyptic world without electricity, smartphones and the Internet. Station Eleven is a truly haunting book, one that is hard to put down and a pleasure to read."
— Doug Knoop, The Seattle Times

"Mandel’s spectacular, unmissable new novel is set in a near-future dystopia, after most — seriously, 99.99 percent — of the world’s population is killed suddenly and swiftly by a flu pandemic. (Have fun riding the subway after this one!) The perspective shifts between a handful of survivors, all connected to a famous actor who died onstage just before the collapse. A literary page-turner, impeccably paced, which celebrates the world lost while posing questions about art, fame, and what endures after everything, and everyone, is gone."
— Amanda Bullock, Vulture

"Haunting and riveting . . . In several moving passages, Mandel's characters look back with similar longing toward the receding pre-plague world, remembering all the things they'd once taken for granted — from the Internet to eating an orange . . . It's not just the residents of Mandel's post-collapse world who need to forge stronger connections and live for more than mere survival. So do we all."
— Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel is, flat-out, one of the best things I’ve read on the ability of art to endure in a good long while. It’s about the ways that civilization is kept alive in a world devastated by a plague, sure, but it’s also about the way artists live, about the way people live, about flawed relationships and creative pursuits and how the unlikeliest of connections can bring transcendence."
— Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature

“Though it centers on civilization’s collapse in the aftermath of a devastating flu, this mesmerizing novel isn’t just apocalyptic fantasy—it’s also an intricately layered character study of human life itself. Jumping back and forth between the decades before and after the pandemic, the narrative interlaces several individuals’ stories, encompassing a universe of emotions and ultimately delivering a view of life that’s both chilling and jubilant.”
People Magazine
 
“If you’re planning to write a post-apocalyptic novel, you’re going to have to breathe some new life into it. Emily St. John Mandel does that with her new book, Station Eleven . . . The story is told through several characters, including an A-list actor, his ex-wives, a religious prophet and the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of Shakespearean actors and musicians who travel to settlements performing for the survivors. Each bring a unique perspective to life, relationships and what it means to live in a world returned to the dark ages . . . Mandel doesn’t put the emphasis on the apocalypse itself (the chaos, the scavenging, the scientists trying to find a cure), but instead shows the effects it has on humanity. Despite the state of the world, people find reasons to continue . . . Station Eleven will change the post-apocalyptic genre. While most writers tend to be bleak and clichéd, Mandel chooses to be optimistic and imaginative. This isn’t a story about survival, it’s a story about living.”
— Andrew Blom, The Boston Herald

“A novel that carries a magnificent depth . . . We get to see something that is so difficult to show or feel – how small moments in time link together. And how these moments add up to a life . . . Her best yet. It feels as though she took the experience earned from her previous writing and braided it together to make one gleaming strand . . . An epic book.”
— Claire Cameron, The Globe and Mail
 
“I’ve been a fan of Emily St. John Mandel ever since her first novel . . . she’s a stunningly beautiful writer whose complex, flawed, and well-drawn characters linger with you long after you set her books down . . . With the release of Station Eleven—a big, brilliant, ambitious, genre-bending novel that follows a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors roaming a postapocalyptic world­—she’s poised for blockbuster success. Effortlessly combining her flawless craftsmanship, rich insights, and compelling characters with big-budget visions of the end of the world, Station Eleven is hands-down one of my favorite books of the year.”
— Sarah McCarry, Tor.com
 
Station Eleven is a complex, eerie novel about the years before and after a pandemic that eliminates most of humanity, save for a troupe of actors and a few traumatized witnesses. Mandel’s novel weaves together a post-apocalyptic reckoning, the life of an actor, and the thoughts of the man who tries to save him. It’s an ambitious premise, but what glues the parts together is Mandel’s vivid, addictive language. It’s easy to see why she’d claim this novel as her most prized: Station Eleven is a triumph of narrative and prose, a beautifully arranged work about art, society, and what’s great about the world we live in now.”
— Claire Luchette, Bustle

“An ambitious and addictive novel.”
— Sarah Hughes, Guardian

“Mandel deviates from the usual and creates what is possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read . . . Beautiful writing . . . An assured handle on human emotions and relationships . . . Though not without tension and a sense of horror, Station Eleven rises above the bleakness of the usual post-apocalyptic novels because its central concept is one so rarely offered in the genre – hope.”
 The Independent (UK)

“A beautiful and unsettling book, the action moves between the old and new world, drawing connections between the characters and their pasts and showing the sweetness of life as we know it now and the value of friendship, love and art over all the vehicles, screens and remote controls that have been rendered obsolete. Mandel's skill in portraying her post-apocalyptic world makes her fictional creation seem a terrifyingly real possibility. Apocalyptic stories once offered the reader a scary view of an alternative reality and the opportunity, on putting the book down, to look around gratefully at the real world. This is a book to make its reader mourn the life we still lead and the privileges we still enjoy.”
Sunday Express

“A haunting tale of art and the apocalypse. Station Eleven is an unmissable experience.”
— Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season

“There is no shortage of post-apocalyptic thrillers on the shelves these days, but Station Eleven is unusually haunting . . . There is an understated, piercing nostalgia . . . there is humour, amid the collapse . . . and there is Mandel's marvellous creation, the Travelling Symphony, travelling from one scattered gathering of humanity to another . . . There is also a satisfyingly circular mystery, as Mandel unveils neatly, satisfyingly, the links between her disparate characters . . . This book will stay with its readers much longer than more run-of-the-mill thrillers.”
— Alison Flood, Thriller of the Month Observer

“Haunting and riveting . . . Mandel will repeatedly remind us in this book, it's people rather than machines that make the world spin . . . In several moving passages, Mandel's characters look back with similar longing toward the receding pre-plague world, remembering all the things they'd once taken for granted . . . In a move that's sure to draw comparisons with Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, Mandel periodically travels backward in time, allowing us to see how blind and selfish such characters were, back in the day when they had so much and lived so small . . . As a result, Station Eleven comes to seem less like a spaceship reflecting how we'll live our dystopian future than a way of thinking about how and where we're traveling here and now. It's not just the residents of Mandel's post-collapse world who need to forge stronger connections and live for more than mere survival. So do we all.”
— Mike Fischer, Knoxville News-Sentinel
 
“Post-apocalyptic scenarios are rarely positive . . . but Mandel’s book embraces a different view while still depicting how difficult living would be in a desolate world.”
— Molly Driscoll, Christian Science Monitor Editors’ Pick

"Enormous scope and an ambitious time-jumping structure, Station Eleven paints its post-apocalyptic world in both bold brushstrokes and tiny points of background detail. As the conflicts of one era illuminate another, a small group of interrelated characters witnesses the collapse of the current historical age and staggers through the first faltering steps of the next . . . [A] powerfully absorbing tale of survival in a quarantined airport and on the dangerous roads between improvised settlements, protected by actors and musicians trained for gunfights. Mandel has imagined this world in full, and her ambition and imagination on display here are admirable."
— Emily Choate, Chapter 16

"Audacious . . . A group of actors and musicians stumble upon each other and now roam the region between Toronto and Chicago as the Traveling Symphony, performing Shakespeare — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” — for small settlements they find in the wilderness. Their existence alone provides the novel with a strange beauty, even hope, as one actress notes how these plays survived a bubonic plague centuries ago . . . Station Eleven is blessedly free of moralizing, or even much violence. If anything, it’s a book about gratitude, about life right now, if we can live to look back on it."
— Kim Ode, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Station Eleven . . . I couldn't resist . . . You should read it, too . . . It'll make you marvel at the world as we know it . . . [and] remind you the people who drive you the most crazy are perhaps also the ones you don't want to live without."
— Mary Pauline Lowry, Huffington Post Books Blog
 
“Never has a book convinced me more of society’s looming demise than Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, an apocalyptic novel about a world just like our own that, much as our own might, dissolves after a new strain of influenza eradicates 99 percent of the human population. A soul-quaking premise, and a story that, I must warn, should not be read in a grubby airport surrounded by potential carriers of … whatever disease, take your pick . . . Mandel displays the impressive skill of evoking both terror and empathy . . . She has exuded talent for years . . . There is such glory in humanity, in what we, through every plague and every age, continue to create — like this book — and in what we are capable of sustaining.”
— Tiffany Gibert, LA Review of Books

"Mandel comes by a now-common genre mash-up, highbrow dystopia, honestly, following three small-press literary thrillers. By focusing on a Shakespeare troupe roving a post-pandemic world of sparse communities, she brings a hard-focus humanity to the form. Repeated flashbacks to the life of an early flu victim, a Hollywood actor who dies onstage in the character of Lear, provide both comic relief and the pathos of a beautifully frivolous world gone by."
— Boris Kachka's 8 Books You Need To Read This September, Vulture
 
“Disappear inside the exquisite post-apocalyptic world of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and you’ll resurface with a greater appreciation for the art and culture we daily take for granted. With fearless imagination, Mandel recounts the peripatetic adventures of an eccentric band of artists, musicians, playwrights, and actors as they traverse the world’s dreary landscape attempting to keep culture and art alive in the aftermath of a devastating disease that has wiped out much of civilization . . . Strange, poetic, thrilling, and grim all at once, Station Eleven is a prismatic tale about survival, unexpected coincidences, and the significance of art and its oft under-appreciated beauty. ”
— September 2014’s Best Books, Bustle

“The most buzzed-about novel of the season.”
— Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly

"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 . . . a brilliantly constructed, highly literary, postapocalyptic page-turner."
— Lauren Gilbert, Library Journal (starred)

"This fast-paced novel details life before and after a flu wipes out 99 percent of the earth's population . . . As the characters reflect on what gives life meaning in a desolate, postapocalyptic world, readers will be inspired to do the same."
Real Simple

“Once in a very long while a book becomes a brand new old friend, a story you never knew you always wanted. Station Eleven is that rare find that feels familiar and extraordinary at the same time, expertly weaving together future and present and past, death and life and Shakespeare. This is truly something special.”
— Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

"Station Eleven is a magnificent, compulsive novel that cleverly turns the notion of a “kinder, gentler time” on its head.  And, oh, the pleasure of falling down the rabbit hole of Mandel’s imagination — a dark, shimmering place rich in alarmingly real detail and peopled with such human, such very appealing characters."
— Liza Klaussmann, author of Tigers in Red Weather

"Her best, most ambitious work yet. Post-apocalyptic tales are all the rage this season, but Mandel’s intricate plotting and deftness with drawing character makes this novel of interlinked tales stand out as a beguiling read. Beginning with the onslaught of the deadly Georgian flu and the death of a famous actor onstage, and advancing twenty years into the future to a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors who perform for the few remaining survivors, the novel sits with darkness while searching for the beauty in art and human connection."  
— Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview, The Millions

“Ambitious, magnificent . . . Mandel’s vision is not only achingly beautiful but startlingly  plausible, exposing the fragile beauty of the world we inhabit. In the burgeoning postapocalyptic literary genre, Mandel’s transcendent, haunting novel deserves a place alongside The Road, The Passage, and The Dog Stars.”
— Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred)

“[An] ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness . . . Think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion . . . Mandel spins a satisfying web of coincidence and kismet . . . Magnetic . . . a breakout novel.”
— Kirkus (starred)

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
 
Station Eleven is a firework of a novel. Elegantly constructed and packed with explosive beauty, it's full of life and humanity and the aftershock of memory.” 
— Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls
 
“Disturbing, inventive and exciting, Station Eleven left me wistful for a world where I still live.” 
— Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist

"A unique departure from which to examine civilization's wreckage . . . [a] wild fusion of celebrity gossip and grim future . . . Mandel's examination of the connections between individuals with disparate destinies makes a case for the worth of even a single life."
Publishers Weekly

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:
7,087
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.
           

Meet the Author

Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of three previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—all of which were Indie Next picks. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and Venice Noir. She lives in New York City with her husband.

www.emilymandel.com


From the Hardcover edition.

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Station Eleven: A novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
There has been a lot of "buzz" surrounding Emily St. John Mandel's contribution to the post-apocalyptic genre, Station Eleven, which was selected as one of Amazon's best books of the month for September. While I'm not sure that all the hype is quite justified, I did enjoy Mandel's writing and her fresh approach. Rather than placing her primary focus on the horrors and challenges of survival in a world decimated by the "Georgia flu," Mandel clearly believes the motto she gives her Traveling Symphony: "Survival is insufficient." The main characters in Station Eleven are not ex-military hardasses, as is so often the case in this genre; they are actors, musicians, and artists who believe that the fine arts are essential to our human identity, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. Mandel conveys this feeling not only through the actions and dialogue of her characters, but also by following key relics of the pre-apocalypse world (a paperweight, a comic book) as they pass through various hands, connecting lives in sometimes unexpected ways. We have here, not six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but six degrees of "Station Eleven," the comic book from which the novel draws its title. Strangely enough, Station Eleven's strength is also its main weakness. Mandel gives short shrift to her characters' survival narratives. Survival may be insufficient, but it is nevertheless essential. Kirsten Raymonde, the child actor who subsequently joins the Traveling Symphony in its Shakespeare productions, doesn't remember her first year as a survivor, presumably because it was too traumatic. Although I didn't need the gory details, I did feel as though her amnesia left a gaping hole as I reached the end of the book. This quibble aside, Station Eleven is a moving and surprisingly hopeful addition to the literature of the post-apocalypse. I received a free copy of Station Eleven through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love literary fiction you'll love this. If you are not a fan of science fiction or dystopian fiction...well, read this anyway. It's all about character, time, and place. You'll love it and expand your horizons. Trust me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a sucker for the recent flood of apocalyptic tales, and this was one of the best stories I've read in a long time. It was less about the collapse of civilization and more about the characters experiences, but the story provided enough details of the events to be satisfying. I did not want the story to end, and yet I could not put the book down. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to read!
LongTimeFanNY More than 1 year ago
A good read. More a series of interwoven stories than a traditional novel. The stories/storylines influence each other, some directly, others indirectly. Past and present are presented in no particular order. This flipping back and forth between the times before and after the apocalyptic event emphasizes the order within chaos concept that is center to the overall story and drives home the fragile, transitory nature of life and all we take for granted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful! Emily is such a gifted writer. Engaging and beautifully written, STATION ELEVEN has something for everyone-a little sci-fi, dystopia, heartache and survival. I will recommend this book to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though i am only 13 years of age (About to be 14), i would highly reccomend this book. This book is appropriate for ages 15 and up. Though there are some obscenities and graphic violence, this book will open your eyes to a whole new world of literacy. The author is honetly a genius, this peice of writing is absolutely preciously valuable.
Artistwriter More than 1 year ago
Not entirely what I expected, the novel has many more layers and depth to it. This is a story for those who appreciate character development as opposed to violence and clichés.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully composed sci-fi story about how civilization in general and both decent and not so decent individuals fare when civilization as we know it collapses suddenly due to a worldwide calamity. Endlessly interesting. Satisfying how all the main characters eventually interact with each other either directly or indirectly. Brilliantly composed without a wasted word. Lots of action too, but the human relationships , and how people are shaped and changed by adversity very much intrigued me. People reacting under pressure. Moments of tragedy and humor with lots of action as civilization suddenly collapses. A must read for sci-fi fans!
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
There is an expectation among those who research such things, that the end of world, as it presently stands, will not occur due to a war fought over oil, religion or politics. Its final gasp will not be due to nuclear fallout or global warming.  The end will come because of a natural occurring virus against which 99.99% of humanity has no resistance. That is the premise upon which Ms. Mandel launches what has all the markings of a remarkable trilogy.  How humanity was whittled down to potentially extinction levels is of less importance in this story than how those who lived respond to being survivors of a sparsely populated world. The book opens with a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear at Toronto’s Elgin Theater. The death of the lead actor, Jeeven Chaudhary, star of stage and screen, from a heart attack during Act IV, is a death unrelated to the pandemic but it does set the tone for what will happen after the devastation the flu strain will bring is complete.  This flu is so contagious, incubates so quickly and is so deadly that humanity has no chance of responding; Shakespeare is timeless & humanity has been responding to his works for centuries. One of the book’s over-arching themes highlights the difference from the “temporary” from the “transcendent.” Kristen Raymonde is an 8-year-old bit player on stage when “King Lear” has his heart attack. In “Year 15,” as time is now measured, she is a member of a traveling Symphony and Shakespeare company. “Cities” are made up of groups of more than 100 and are typically centered around buildings constructed to serve people – former gas stations, fast food restaurants and big box stores. Houses, for reason’s unclear are shunned and allowed to dilapidate after being repeatedly searched. Everyone who survived Year One is leery, paranoid and guarded. As the troupe is on constant tour, they see the stagnation of humanity and are on constant alert for fear of a reoccurrence of “what happened.” In response to what she sees Kristen ponders if, perhaps, “humanity should pass from existence.” At each stop, the Company performs - music one night, Shakespeare the next. The story is told in flashbacks each “visit to before” sheds light on how those still living came to react as they do, how seeming disparate events and elements were not as random as they first seem, everything and everyone is connected to the present. Life is reduced to its basics – food, water, shelter, community. One goes to bed at dark and rises with the sun. Questions so important when “everything worked” are revealed to be empty, replaced by deeper ponderings of faith, power, beauty and trust. The survivors are no longer connected to possessions, having learned to treasure what is of real value. Religion is still alive in this new age, as is the genuine faith sometimes found in its practitioners. What is more often the case, however, in this tale of warning, is one’s “religion” gives credence to delusion. Prophets abound, their followers seeming to find safety in following the words of one who “hears the voice of god” and will obey what this prophet says, even if it means violating every moral and value they possess. The book ends with many questions answered and new paths discovered.  The “end” did not feel like a conclusion, Kristen’s angst was confronted with hope.  I would like for this journey to continue, but if Ms. Mandel brought her readers to the intended place of parting, it is a good spot to rest.  
Drewano More than 1 year ago
I’m a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic genre and I’ve read tons of books but none like “Station Eleven” and I guess that’s because I would say that it doesn’t fall into this genre.  Oh don’t get me wrong it take place just before and after the Georgia Flu has killed 99% of the world’s population, but it’s not about that at all.  Some books take you thought the collapse of civilization some only show the aftermath but this book takes you right through it but it completely glosses over it.  One character rides it out his brother’s apartment one in an airport but the author keeps us confined in these areas.  When people do leave we only hear what they say when they come back and don’t get to see what goes on for ourselves.  Even the news reports the reader hears are broad generalizations.  This book is all about the characters, their interactions with each other, how their lives intertwine and their actions and regrets in this fleeting world.   It’s was written and thought provoking and sometimes frustrating (the biggest example is the lack of discussion of the evolution of The Prophet being huge missed opportunity) but overall a great example of modern literary fiction.
karatepen More than 1 year ago
This is brilliantly constructed novel with great complexity of characters and time lines. St. John Mandel intertwines her characters and time with ease flow and great love for the integrity and ambition of the theme she tackles. I was intrigued by the characters plot and had trouble getting emotionally involved.This is a novel of desperation,trust and hope in relationships that help all of us survive in different levels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am only 200 pages into this book but I can already tell I'm going to be sad when it ends. The author has masterfully created a post civilization world that forces the reader to examine their current life and wonder what it would be like to live without the luxuries we have come to expect. This book isn't gross or creepy just a wonderfully organized plot that keeps you hooked. I can't wait to see where it goes but I also never want it to end. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A key quote from Star Trek in this beautifully written and more upbeat post-apocalyptic novel. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My previous review indicating this was drivel was premature. After the first 50 pages the sgiry picks up and the writing also improves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a fine line between hoe and despair in post apocalyptic noves and she threads that path perfectly. So much that it makes you think...if the worlrd were to end next week : would you be happy witj your life?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book! So fantastic and beautifully written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I HAD TO READ IT FOR CLUB. WHAT A STRUGGLE.
Haziegaze More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to reading this. I have heard and read rave reviews about how fantastic it is so was chuffed to bits when I was provided with a copy from Netgalley via the publisher, Picador, and I settled down to read. What can I say? Is there something wrong with me? I just didn't get it. I don’t know why but it just didn't grab me at all and, I'm sorry to say, I found it boring so much so that I skim read parts just to get it over with a bit quicker. I recognise when I am not enjoying a book because I find myself subconsciously finding other things to do rather than read and I did this quite a lot whilst trudging through this book. The characters, although well written were just not that interesting and I found myself not caring what happened or happens to them. I found the whole thing a mix of different stories which was confusing and just didn't seem cohesive.  Maybe it was partly because it was told from different points of view with no central character. Maybe it was the Shakespeare - I'm not a huge fan.  Maybe it was a bit too “deep” for me … I'm a simple person who reads purely for enjoyment and I don’t want to have to think too hard to find complex meaning … my job is taxing enough on my brain, I don’t want it to be overworked! This book received so much hype that I think it raised my expectations and I was just left feeling flat and unconvinced and actually rather sad. I even left it a few days before writing this review because sometimes if I give it a few days to reflect on what I've read, it sometimes helps but unfortunately not in this case - it just didn't do it for me at all. I realise that I am in a minority here and there are loads of people who love this book so I suggest you give it a go and make your own mind up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished this. It was good, but confusing at times. Don't really like the back and forth. Really makes you think about the little everyday items you would lose and what could become important. Is remembering important? This could apply today. I would probably read this author again.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Anonymous 8 months ago
This book was so peculiar, but I was spell bound by the different developments of the storyline and characters and then I didn't want it to end.
AymTru More than 1 year ago
A post-apocalypse with a heart? That's how I would describe this narrative as the story sweetly navigates a heartrending situation with a mixture of reserve and intrigue. So foreign is the novel (locally) yet, such a frequent wake-up call
bookworm919 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and am so sad it is over. Everything about it was just wonderful, the writing, the characters, the story. There are so few books I want to reread, this one I wanted to reread it before I was even half way. One of my favorite books of all time.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book like this before. It's more a series of snapshots than a cohesive story, and yet, I loved it. It follows a handful of main characters all centered around one man who died of a heart attack the night before the world ended. I was riveted by the details of this post apocalyptic world. Unlike most stories of this kind, it was a very realistic portrayal of the near future (assuming a pandemic were to break out) vs. a distant, new social structure type future. The story is not laid out linearly. Instead, it jumps around a lot, both in time and with characters. But somehow the genius of the details and the way that everything was so intricately woven together made up for this non-traditional writing style. I was annoyed by some of the flashbacks especially when they seemed unrelated to what had just been happening, but in almost every case the back story proved valuable. Also, Mandel writes about the things I've worried about with the end of civilization as we know it: living without glasses (my biggest fear), surviving after essential medications aren't available, and trying to navigate streets full of abandoned cars in a wheelchair. This is a story about real people dealing with the real struggles of life without electricity, cars, and telephones. At times, especially in the beginning, I wanted more plot, but then I kind of accepted the ambiguity of the story. I let the characters wash over me. Listening to the audiobook made this a little easier. I really enjoyed all of the characters, even the Prophet, the quasi-bad guy. The rich details made them all endearing. I was a little surprised when the book was over. I wanted more. More information, more developments between the characters, and more knowledge of the world 20 years after the collapse and beyond. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/04/book-review-station-eleven.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in YEARS. I won't go too much into the plot because you can read the description for that, but I'll just say that the writing itself is so beautiful. At points, this book reads like poetry or prose. But not confusing poetry. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this book will make you see the poetry and beauty that is everyday, mundane life. And then there are the characters. It's all about the characters in this book. The development is beautiful. The plot is narrated through various viewpoints depicting vignettes of the characters' lives. It's all stunning. I would absolutely recommend this.