“Station Eleven” by Emily St.John Mendel


asteriaiconThe story starts in Toronto where a plague is unleashed. A flight from Russia landed at Pearson International airport, where the passengers were infected with the Georgian Flu. It soon spread very quickly in the city, and throughout the world, leveling the majority of the human population.

In the meantime, an actor, Arthur Leander, dies onstage while performing King Lear. In the city, we start to see the best and worst of humanity, as some people try to help each other, while others start looting and try to hole up in their homes until they are forced to leave.

After the plague has taken hold and society as we know it has crumbled, we fast forward to the Traveling Symphony, a band of survivors who travel through the area that used to be Southern Ontario and Michigan, entertaining what little of the human population is left. As the story progresses, we see how some of the survivors lives are intertwined, and seem to lead back to Arthur Leander.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, though admittedly, I read it right before I got on a plane to Toronto. It wasn’t a great idea, and I was mildly paranoid for a bit. But you can see just how easily an airborne disease can spread very quickly in such a huge city. Think of all of the public transit, the business core, the tourists coming from all over the world, and let’s not forget the PATH. I now pack hand sanitizer!

The author does an incredible job of writing about an apocalypse and yet keeping it exceptionally human. She focused so well on how people can touch each other’s lives, yet still feel so lonely and isolated.

The author has some of these survivors tell their children and grandchildren of what life was like before the plague wiped out everything. It really makes you think of what it would be like if the majority of people just disappeared tomorrow. What would you have to say about our lives and what our society was like?

I liked how the author told the story through different points of view, and how they bounced back and forth in time between the pre and post Georgian Flu. I also loved that she illustrated that even in humanities darkest days, we rely on art and entertainment to help us understand the world around us. If this has not been picked up for a movie, I really hope that it does. It would transfer to the big screen so beautifully!

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