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In our present day, an actor playing King Lear has a heart attack and dies. Fifteen years later, a caravan of actors and musicians travels the ruins of the United States, performing Shakespeare and fighting for survival. Discovering what happens between those two points in time, like slowly unwrapping a present, is the exquisite joy of this novel. Emily St. John Mandel is able to take a disaster of enormous scope—the fall and rise of humanity—and show it to us through the eyes of five seemingly small figures. And when you fit those five puzzle pieces together at the book's heartbreaking climax, you will be both terrified of the future and overjoyed to be human and alive.— Andrea
What do a dead Shakespearean actor, a paramedic, a prophet, and the keeper of the last graphic novel on Earth have in common? There's a deadly superflu, but also dozens of coincidences that connect these narrators in this profound and beautiful tale about what we hold onto at the end of the world. My favorite book of 2014, and definitely in my Top 10 of all time ever.— Andrea
The plot sounds grim: decades after a population-decimating flu outbreak, a band of Shakespearean actors roams the desolate Midwest, performing for the makeshift communities of survivors who live in former gas stations, Wal-Marts. Yet Station Eleven is a tender and contemplative look at the power of love, memory, and imagination. St. John Mandel’s beautiful narration and intricate plot construction is as all-consuming as the disease that wipes out humanity’s heft. Chronological shifts reveal the world’s demiselectricity fails, gasoline runs out—and remember characters’ lives before Year 0—their failing marriages, their golden dreams.— Julia
This post-apocalyptic endeavor is a beautifully written, terrifying journey into a future that feels real. We follow a caravan of musicians and actors who call themselves the Traveling Symphony, performing for forlorn survivors as they traverse the desolate landscape of what was once the Great Lakes. A fantastic look into human nature and the will to survive.— Sara
“This is a harrowing and wonderful book -- blunt and elegant, wise and frightening, and utterly plausible at every turn. The characters are complicated, but their stories, short or long, are always deeply engaging. We -- our species -- always find ways, little by little, not just to survive but also to reestablish a sense of place, of community, and of compassion. Unsentimental yet deeply moving, Station Eleven is a terrific achievement.”
— John Christensen, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI