“Station Eleven” excels in intricate storytelling

Anna Cuimmo

“Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel is a cutting-edge, poetic novel about the possible apocalyptic future of earth.

The story begins with Jeevan, one of the main characters, living in our modern-day world and experiencing a normal life. His life is comprised of the usual: a dispassionate relationship, a mid-life crisis and the longing for a purpose. At this time, the world is quite normal and exposes the superficiality of a normal life.

In that beginning scene, the tension starts to rise and you feel a big changes are about to happen. Jeevan is sitting in the audience of a showing of the play “King Lear,” but the production is stopped short by the actor playing Lear, Arthur Leander, having a heart attack. Although Jeevan tries to revive Arthur with CPR, the actor dies.

That very same night, the world begins to panic. A sudden violent flu begins to kill off hundreds of people by the hour. Within the next few weeks, only a handful of people are left alive, scattered across the world.

About 15 years after the flu began, Kirsten Raymonde, who was a child actor before the collapse, is now with “The Traveling Symphony,” a nomadic band of musicians and actors that perform classical music and Shakespeare for their few fellow survivors. Coincidentally, before the collapse, Kirsten acted in the same play as Arthur Leander.

This book chiefly focuses on Jeevan and Kirsten, but it also is focused on exploring other smaller connections across time between primary and secondary characters that they themselves might not even see.

The book is an excellently crafted masterpiece. The plot is unpredictable and jumps between time and place between chapters almost confusingly. But as the story progresses, the depth of the story grows, and the thoughtful interconnected character arcs are revealed.

The story’s themes deal mostly with the superficiality of modern life, the timelessness of the arts and the ways in which we affect others. Although the content is only minorly graphic (verbally, violently and sexually), the story still can be difficult to read at times due to the raw emotions and some unhappy truths.

This book would appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those appreciative of arts, theatre or music. “Station Eleven” has the potential to become timeless.

Rating: 5/5