I just gotta say it; Station Eleven is one of my Top Ten Books of All Time (affectionately known as the TTBoAT), and is definitely in my top three of this year. It’s a big claim, but I’ll stick with it.
What it’s about:
The story follows several different characters’ lives before/after a highly contagious plague sweeps the earth and demolishes most of the world’s population. We meet Jeevan, an EMT who tries to save an actor who has a heart attack on stage the night the plague hits; Arthur Leander, the actor he tries to save; Kirsten, a girl who survives the plague and joins a traveling Shakespeare company that walks between the tiny post-plague settlements; and several other similarly intriguing folks. The Shakespeare company has been touring the Great Lakes area for several years, but this year they are surprised to hear of a new threat, a man called the Prophet who seems to be wreaking havoc in the already-fragile surviving world.
Why I liked it:
If I had to recommend one book this year (so far), Station Eleven would be it. It explores which things survive catastrophe and the remarkable power of hope. The writing is sparkling and precise, and I absolutely couldn’t put it down. There were so many moments where I read a sentence three times wishing desperately that I had written it. (Plus, the idea is just so, so good. The fact that Shakespeare himself was writing his plays after a near catastrophic plague is not lost on Mandel; the mirroring of Shakespeare’s work and the newly-emptied world is incredible.) Not only is the idea compelling, but Mandel manages to keep it perfectly controlled the entire time, so every single characters is revealed to be brilliantly interconnected by the end.
Audience: Mature teen – Adult (for thematic intensity)
Read if you liked:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver