Mandel's book, Station Eleven, follows the demise of our world as we know it. After a “Georgia Flu” kills most of Earth’s population, those who survive the pandemic are left to face the challenges of surviving in a world where much of the modern technology, science, and commodities that they rely on have ceased to exist. Centered around characters whose lives are connected to each other in ways that they do not entirely understand, Mandel offers a heartfelt glimpse into the emotional toll of a pandemic and its aftermath.
Reading this book as I live through a pandemic was an unsettling experience. Early in Mandel’s novel, I found myself identifying parallels to the way that COVID-19 has unfolded in our own lives, from mentions of people rushing to grocery stores for supplies to the dwindling space in hospitals. As I read further into the novel, however, I was mostly overcome with empathy. Hearing about the desires and fears of Mandel’s characters, as they longed for loved ones that they had lost, for their lives before the Georgia Flu, and questioned what the future had in store, I saw bits and pieces of myself and others learning to navigate life in unusual circumstances.
Mandel sustains the interest of her readers throughout her book by slowly revealing what comes of her characters and how they happen to know each other. Intrigued by Mandel’s details, I hypothesized numerous possibilities for what would happen to each character and how their lives might cross. Upon finishing the book, I realized that some of these questions were left unanswered. While I was partly frustrated by this ending, the more I sat with it, the more I appreciated it. After all, I couldn’t help but feel that this ambiguity accurately reflected our current situation; even now, despite the promising potential of vaccines, much uncertainty remains about how things will change and what might possibly be next.
Still, Mandel manages to end her novel with a glimmer of hope about the good that exists in the unknown. For those looking for hope and meaning in uncertain times, Station Eleven may just be the next book for you.
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