23 July 2016

Beauty: A Review of Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

The heat has trespassed the air space over southern Ontario claiming this land it's demon own. Green branches bow to it's intense gaze, while fluffy, waterless clouds mock animals and humans inability to find sufficient shade. The pure weight of summer's golden epoch has Toronto flailing in its attempt to be cool. Amidst the temperature induced slothfulness I read, all the while half-intently listening to the child discuss his current little boy passions. 

How many words can one 6 year old proclaim over the span of 24 hrs; all of the words, all of them, much to a parent's great alarm, chagrin and wonder. With a proclivity to dinosaurs since a mere babe, the son continues on his quest to study every creature that has lived on this blue orb. Current fashion has snakes, with the subspecies of pythons and boas the highlight of July. Hot, sweaty trips to the local library occur bi-weekly to fuel his overwhelming curiosity, with me, the Momma happily acting as local librarian, Sherpa and translator.  The sheer volume of knowledge I personally have gained regarding anacondas would surely warrant me a fellowship. As these days melt into each other, I marvel at my ability and his wiliness for me to weave into his world. Summer actualizes my joy of motherhood. 

Thus, as we all make summer into a substantive, memory-inspired season, I recommend the highly acclaimed dystopian masterwork Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Yet again, my timing is greatly off, as the world's enthusiasm for this SF book is a year behind. I read what I read, unfortunately not always on par with the rolling tides of popularity, nor in agreement with the very awards that may have risen a novel to the heights it has achieved. This time, however, the pure beauty bound within the covers of Station Eleven awoke the reader in me. You know the reader, the one who slumbers deep within, hungry for a Tolstoy, a Herbert or an Atwood, yearning for a novel to swim within as the images created line by line, slip you further into a world more real than reality. Not many a book wakes the reader, but when she stirs, my creativity detonates as my soul sings. A good book is drank with your eyes, lives forever in your heart, and it is this that Emily St. John Mandel has written: a cherished moment of reading beauty.

A flu epidemic ravishes Earth, killing 90% of humanity. The world stops, regroups, internet, jet planes, electricity is a distance memory even a myth for many of the post-epidemic generation. Station Eleven juxtaposes those last days in Toronto before the outbreak with the meanderings of a group of musicians/actors who travel the lower Great Lakes as the Symphony. In an apocalypse, the fabrics that a cultured society wore have been tattered, even razed. And yet as I walked with the Symphony as they subsisted off the land, creating music, offering Shakespeare to the small communities that weathered the nightmarish fall of humanities golden age, I experienced wonder, a pure sense of joy. Peppered by images from Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, and Jose Saramago's haunting triumph Blindness, I am seasoned to the dystopian world-view. Yet with Station Eleven, the images of death, destruction and cruelty are less the story. This is a novel of fortitude, a willingness not only to survive but create beauty along the way.

Station Eleven is your book of the summer, as it is now mine.