Although I seldom read science fiction, I’m completely spellbound by STATION ELEVEN, a National Book Award Finalist by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s set in America’s great lakes region after a fictional pandemic wipes out most of the world. What’s wonderful and surprising is the realism, personal humanity, and hope found in this lovely, eerie, artful novel.
A traveling troupe of artists called the “Traveling Symphony” performs plays by Shakespeare in the remnants and rubble of small towns and cities, where survivors live in abandoned fast food restaurants and boarded up houses. Running water and electricity are a thing of the past. Letters on the side of the lead caravan say, “Because survival is insufficient.” How true this statement is today. Or back when Shakespeare was writing. And it will be true 50 years from now, if civilization is still alive. We can hope. Especially if the arts are still alive. Thank God for artists–writers, painters, actors and actresses, all those who contribute to lifting hearts and society above the mundane. Didn’t someone say, “Without art the people perish?” Something like that.
It’s interesting how a character in STATION ELEVEN discovers a note about how in Shakespeare’s day, “Plague closed the theaters again and again, death flickering over the landscape. And now in a twilight once more lit by candles, the age of electricity having come and gone…” Oh, this gives me chills. What a way with words this author has!
The book was a gift in a “book exchange” at a writing club I’m in, and what a pleasant surprise. I’m only about twenty-five percent of the way through, but looking forward to more. More of this book, and more inspiring, artful writing from the creative people of this world who are writing to lift readers beyond mere survival, into that place where the spirit thrives.