It all started with the fourth act of King Lear. The plastic snow was falling from the rafters onto the stage, Arthur Leander was giving his performance his all as any actor should, and before spectators could blink, he was dead. A heart attack, on stage, in front of hundreds of people.
That's when it all started. The end of civilization. Later that night, there would be phone calls to loved ones telling them to flee from the city. A deadly virus was sweeping the nation, and there would be no survivors. Later that week, most everyone would be dead.
Fast forward to twenty years later, we meet a band of survivors called The Traveling Symphony. These actors and musicians travel what's left of North America, and perform for whatever little makeshift towns and communities are open to a bit of entertainment. But not all people The Traveling Symphony meet are friendly.
When Kirsten Raymonde (a member of the symphony), Arthur Leander, and several other characters' journeys begin to intertwine, Emily St. John Mandel spins a story that will make connections and revelations that will knock you off your feet.
In all honesty, I could not stand this book as soon as I started it. Station Eleven was another recommended (by a friend) read of 2016, and my stomach started to twist into knots when I thought I was going to have to give her recommendation a three star (or less) rating. The beginning of the book didn't hook me at all. I was uninterested in (seemingly) the main character's (Kirsten's) story, and I didn't really care as to the outcome of her band of entertainers. I was more interested in characters who didn't have much of a spotlight in the first few parts of the book.
Halfway through, I put down my copy, went to bed, and dreamed of starting a different book that would actually capture my interest.
The next day, I picked up the book again, and felt as if the story had changed overnight. From where I picked up, suddenly the plot became very intriguing. Stories started to connect, characters were meeting, speculations were running high, people were missing and in danger, etc.
I have never experienced such a 180 degree turn in a book like this ever, in my entire life. Perhaps The Hunger Games is the only other book that comes close. (In that circumstance, I gave up shortly before "The Arena," and picked it up again after my friend threatened to kick my butt if I didn't finish it.)
This is why I cannot give up on books. If I had given up on Station Eleven, I never would have had the chance to experience one of the best books I have read in my lifetime. (Again, the same goes for The Hunger Games.) My opinion on this book went from "Ugh," to "Meh," to "Wait, what," to "(insert unintelligible curse words here)."
This book is exceptional. Extraordinary. Breathtaking. Dare I say, even life-changing.
As soon as I finished Station Eleven, I just sat on my couch, borderline in tears, wondering how in the world Ms St. John Mandel could affect me so powerfully. How could ink and paper make me so happy, so hopeless, and so overwhelmed ALL AT THE SAME TIME? At that moment, I wanted to forget every other book in the world, and just devote my life to reading and rereading Station Eleven in hopes that I will catch new things each and every time.
I don't want you to go into this book expecting a huge "Oh my gosh, my life is over" revelation at the end, but if you do read Station Eleven (which I implore you, PLEASE read Station Eleven), expect the unexpected. Don't give up on it. Don't go into it with any pre-conceived notions. Just...read it. For the love of the book Gods, read this book.