19. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
I read this book for one of my book clubs. I was not hopeful when I picked it up because I am not generally someone who enjoys post-apocalyptic stories, but I adored this book. A terrible virus has wiped up much of the earth’s population starting on the night that actor Arthur Leander has a heart attack and dies on stage during a performance of King Lear. All the characters in the story are somehow related to him: the paramedic who leaps from the audience onto the stage in order to try and save him, the little girl playing his daughter in the play who watches him die from the wings, two of his ex-wives, and his son.
The story moves back and forth in time showing the lives of the characters before the horrible virus and then some point in the future maybe 20 or so years after the virus has ended. I think what I liked about this book compared to other post-apocalyptic stories was that it wasn’t really about the direct aftermath. You got to know the characters in their lives well before their lives were destroyed, and then you get to see people at the point where they’re really starting to live again and to try and put things back together. The young girl grows up to be part of a traveling troupe of actors who have the line “Because survival is insufficient.” painted on their wagon. I feel like that is a good theme for the entire book. Despite how awful things have been and still are there is still beauty in the world, life will go on, and the human race will rebuild a life that goes beyond just staying alive. I felt a hope in this book that I normally find absent in post-apocalyptic material.
I give this book a 9 out of 10.