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On our bookshelf: Station Eleven

Novels about the apocalypse aren’t often works that anyone would categorize as “hopeful,” but Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven curiously fits this branding quite well. Set against the backdrop of what was North America before a deadly virus wiped out the majority of the human population, the novel follows a diverse band of survivors who have created a theatre brigade known as the Traveling Symphony. This nomadic group travels across the desolate landscape performing Shakespeare’s works to keep art and culture alive in an otherwise barren world. Interspersed between this story line are flashbacks to the lives of the characters before the tragedy—particularly an estranged A-list actor and those who crossed paths with him. At times, the novel is startlingly heartbreaking and suspenseful, and at others gentle and poignant. The Traveling Symphony’s motto is “Survival is insufficient,” and this theme carries throughout the entirety of the novel. Station Eleven is less a drama about the end of the world, but rather an exploration of humanity and what it really means to be alive