As of writing this review, millions of people across the globe are sheltering in place. Many have lost their jobs and humanity is united in fear and hopelessness. It is nearly impossible to find something to be happy about. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, confusion and despair Emily St John manages to entertain and offer hope. In Station Eleven, she talks about a pandemic whose scale and devastating impacts mirror what the globe is grappling with today. This book is not for the faint hearted. It is for resilient spirits that can find reasons to smile and hope even in the face of the bleakest and most trying adversity.
Station Eleven Summary
Station Eleven describes an apocalyptic viral pandemic that devastates humanity. Hundreds of millions die and the few survivors are tasked with the mandate of re-establishing civilization. Jeevan, a young actor who performs as part of a troupe is the main character in this novel. Over a years-long period, the novel tracks Jeevan’s experiences. The novel begins by describing Jeevan’s first encounter with the highly contagious Georgian flu which leaves death and untold suffering in its wake. It then proceeds to explore Jeevan’s quest for normalcy.
While Jeevan is the main character in St. John’s Station Eleven, he is certainly not the only one. As they read on, audiences are introduced to numerous other characters who are also grappling with the outcomes of the Georgian flu pandemic. One of these characters is Clark, a young man who joins Jeevan in looking for normalcy. He finds some version of this normalcy in a fictional town where he serves as a museum curator. The book concludes without informing readers whether humanity was able to repair the damage that the pandemic had caused.
The good in Station Eleven
First off, it is important to make it clear that Station Eleven may not be the right book for all readers at this time. Currently, individuals are frightened and are desperate in their search for hope. This book does not offer much. Instead, it is scary, crude and raw. Perhaps these qualities are what make it so intriguing. Station Eleven confronts a real issue in such a human way. It explores the fears and anxieties of individuals who have lost their families and communities whose lives have been wiped out. The real approach that the book adopts is truly effective.
Before sitting down to write Station Eleven, St John must have carried out rigorous research. The amount of effort that went into the development of the book is evident in the technical details and the accuracy of the information that St John offers. For example, he describes the symptoms that those infected with the Georgian flu exhibit. These details show that the book is not a mere work of fiction. It respects the intelligence of readers enough to feed them accurate and verifiable information.
How it depicts the daily struggles that humans endure is yet another issue that Station Eleven does perfectly. For example, the book indicates that even in the midst of pandemics, humans grapple with such other problems as death and marital infidelity. Basically, St John demonstrates that even in the face of serious crises like pandemics, normal human experiences continue. Essentially, the book highlights the supremacy and resilience of the human spirit. This spirit is tremendously strong and formidable that it continues to power life even during the darkest moments.
One would expect that given the heftiness of the pandemic that constitutes the focus of St John’s book, she would be tempted to highlight the ugly side of humans. St John resists this temptation. For example, usually, when pandemics strike, looting and the rise of dystopian governments are witnessed. These events do not erupt in St John’s universe. Instead of presenting humans as destructive and selfish individuals, St John portrays the characters in Station Eleven as resourceful, innovative, and resilient. These characters echo the millions of people today who continue to hold out hope and have maintained their sobriety.
The focus on individual stories adds to the appeal of Station Eleven. While it is true that the whole of humanity is decimated by the Georgian flu, St John does not give too much attention to the collective pain that the entire world experiences. Instead, she places individual struggles at the center of this book. Each of the characters in Station Eleven have their own unique problems and perspectives. These differences combine to convey the message that such crises as pandemics can be so devastating that they unite the whole of humanity in sorrow and anguish.
How art can be used to elevate human spirits and reinvigorate individuals who are on the brink of losing hope is another matter that Station Eleven uses to set itself apart. This novel depicts art as an effective antidote that could hold the key to helping humanity recover in the wake of pandemics and other serious crisis. The book’s celebration of the role that art plays is important as it reminds readers to develop deeper appreciation for artists who strive to deliver hope and awaken dying spirits.
The main takeaway from Station Eleven is that no hardship is so unbearable that it can totally eliminate hope. The book indicates that humans possess the capacity to withstand even the most daunting hardship. Having witnessed death and survived unimaginable pain, Jeevan and Kirsten, two of the most important characters in the novel manage to retain their positivity. They can provide lessons to those who are worried about their jobs, health and futures. It is clear that St John sought to use the book as a tool for lifting spirits and restoring hope.
The not so good and the outright bad
One of the things that readers may not like about Station Eleven is that it does not take health crises seriously. For example, the book does not offer sufficient detail about the human cost of the Georgian flu. It does not describe hospitals overwhelmed by the large number of patients who have developed this flu and whose lives are in serious danger. Moreover, the book fails to give adequate weight to the economic impacts of the flu pandemic. The absence of these details erodes the impact of the book and could alienate some readers, particularly those who have witnessed the effects of pandemics first hand.
St John makes the job of reviewers daunting. Many reviewers love it when books offer them a lot to complain about. St John does not allow them to experience this pleasure as they review her book. The mistakes are so minor and forgivable that any reviewer who dwells on them is simply being petty and unprofessional. The many things that St John gets right are enough to distract readers from the few blunders that she commits.
In closing, St John packages a serious topic in an approachable and unintimidating fabric. Her book is so well structured and put together that even the laziest readers will have an easy time. However, while it does not demand much physical effort, the book requires tremendous moral and emotional fortitude. It is best suited for readers looking to build their tenacity and resilience and those who wish to have their faith in the strength of the human spirit renewed.