The 2019 ATY Reading Challenge prompt #48 is to read a finalist or winner from the National Book Awards from any year. I chose to read Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award.
I was intrigued by the premise of this post-apocalyptic novel. It follows a troupe of nomadic players twenty years after a massive flu pandemic decimates the population of the planet. For the past two years, this group of actors and musicians have traveled a circuit around the Great Lakes. This year, however, brings some disturbing changes.
The book opens in “present day” during a production of King Lear. The lead, a famous Hollywood actor, dies suddenly onstage. In the audience is a former paparazzi who is now an EMT. Recognizing the actor’s symptoms, he jumps on stage and attempts to save his life.
The story line goes back and forth in time from Year One to Year Twenty, and sometimes flashes back to before the event. Mandel weaves together a beautiful tapestry of seemingly unrelated lives, highlighting the moments where these lives intersect. It is a wonderfully drawn picture of humanity, and how we interact with one another in the face of both ordinary and devastating events.
I chose the audio version of this book, narrated by Kirsten Potter. It is very well done. I highly recommend this book.