Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Book - 2014
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2014 National Book Award Finalist

A New York Times Bestseller

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear . Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385353304
Branch Call Number: MANDEL E
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 22 cm


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From Library Staff

"One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's c... Read More »

LPL_DirectorBrad Dec 08, 2014

What a great book! An exquisitely written meditation on life after the collapse of modern civilization.

This smash-hit read of 2014 follows a roaming theater troupe near the Great Lakes. The nature of art, beauty, and survival all play out delicately in a world that has seemingly ended.

Two people have brought up this book to me in the past week. That can't be a coincidence!

After a devastating flu wipes out most of the world’s population, a traveling theater troupe goes from community to community to perform Shakespeare and music for the survivors. Their motto, adapted from an episode of Star Trek, is “Because survival is insufficient.” Eventually they encounter a p... Read More »

From the critics

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Sep 25, 2020

"All three caravans of the Travelling Symphony are labelled as such, THE TRAVELLING SYMPHONY lettered in white of both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text:

Because survival is insufficient"

Aug 09, 2020

This book was def overhyped by the time I got around to it. I'm not feeling the same connection to Covid, I don't worry about my society collapsing, also the limited time spent on people actually being sick make it feel like a it was immediately over. It was very interesting at first but as time went on I was getting too much unnecessary info and not enough explanation of's like so many things were forgotten and never coming back. Maybe it's on purpose but it's no less frustrating.
Things I did like: people checking their memories against each other (light in the fridge, chocolate chip cookies)
Did not like: how things are connected but not connected enough, and the treatment of women, even though most of the violence happens outside the main story.

Jul 19, 2020


jcljessicaj Jul 07, 2020

We listened to this on a recent road-trip. It was a good middle ground for my partner and I who have different taste in genres - I like romance and fantasy; he likes noir mystery. We really enjoyed it - especially currently living in a pandemic. We were captivated by the characters and various story lines. It was so fascinating to see them intersect and fun to guess at what was to come. We paused it multiple times while listening to discuss certain parts or give our theories for where a certain character's story would go. Listening to the book gave us the sense of living in the story. We loved it.

JCLEmmaF Jun 22, 2020

An incredibly surreal, gorgeous, and devastating experience to accidentally pick this up during a pandemic, read in quarantine. Unforgettable, really.

Jun 21, 2020

When I downloaded this nearly 18 months ago I did not realize a specific part was missing. After reading the book (my copy) I finally figured out what is missing. Now I'm on the long waitlist to reload. IMO there are several points where the author dropped the ball, however, most importantly it was her first book. Maybe the editor could have pointed out various 'issues'. That said, this has become a favorite read/listen and I feel there is much to be examined, pondered. I've returned to it frequently and found new aspects I can take further. Age and experience has a lot to do with acceptance, understanding. Don't dismiss it out of hand as it seems several reviews have done. I've heard Scots whisky is an acquired taste as opposed to bourbon, as is haggis or curry. This has become an acquired taste for me.

Jun 18, 2020

I really liked "Station Eleven" even though I read it in the middle of the current COVID-19 pandemic and that did make parts of the story hit a little closer to the bone. The characters were likeable, which is really important to me as a reader. I don't have much patience with novels full of characters I don't care about at all. I noticed a few comments here about how the ending was great. For me it fell a little flat and that's why I am going with 4 stars instead of 5. I felt like I would have liked to read a little more about the conversations that happened between Clark and Kirsten, but they are mostly left implied.

Jun 13, 2020

I did not finish this book because I could not believe that two years after a pandemic that leaves the population with no gasoline or electricity there would still be much of an entertainment industry. The lack of being able to move food around the country would require that those who did not starve to death return to a completely agrarian lifestyle which would leave very little time for an entertainment industry.

IndyPL_LoriO May 08, 2020

In Station Eleven, a deadly pandemic strikes, and civilization as we know it collapses. The timeline isn’t linear, which sometimes bothers me in a novel, but it’s done so well in this book. There’s plenty of jumping around to different characters and time periods (pre- and post- pandemic), but I was deeply invested in each storyline and it was clear how everything fit together, so it didn’t get confusing. There are so many strong themes that lend themselves to discussion. The ways we process trauma, what it means to survive, and the search for purpose in life are just a few that resonated with me. I will definitely re-read this one.

Apr 27, 2020

It is a solid novel on topic which was tried before and will be explored in future as well. Honestly can’t see what was the hype all about, except being very much relevant right now.
If you want to know more about MicrobesInc, fund a book called “ Soap and Water and Common Sense: The Definitive Guide to Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites, and Disease“
by Bonnie Henry. You will have much more thrill from reading it!

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Add a Quote
Jul 13, 2017

"[...] everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious."

Apr 14, 2017

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

Apr 14, 2017

“They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”

Apr 14, 2017

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

Apr 14, 2017

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

Apr 14, 2017

“It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”

Apr 14, 2017

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”

Apr 14, 2017

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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Add Age Suitability
Apr 13, 2020

frenchhornistba thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Feb 03, 2019

FaithR thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary
melwyk Sep 25, 2014

One snowy night in Toronto, an actor playing King Lear drops dead on stage. Only 24 hours later, most of the city is dead from a rapidly spreading virus. The few survivors find, as the electricity and water stop, as the internet drops out, that the virus has killed 99% of the world's population.

The question arises: how to live now? In Emily St John Mandel's unusual approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, the survivors of this modern plague retain their longing for community and civilization, trying their best to live in pockets of humanity across North America.

Early on, we meet the Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel caravan-style around the countryside, performing Shakespeare and symphonies to the scattered inhabitants of tiny settlements. As Kirsten, a main character, has tattooed on her arm: Survival is insufficient.

However, this symphony is also heavily armed, as chaos does exist in the new world. There are those in this rough life who rely on violence, including an eerie Prophet who controls a town the Travelling Symphony rolls into at the start of the story. This Prophet and his followers will pursue them for the rest of the book, adding an edge of suspense.

The story weaves back and forth from apocalyptic present to the past, revealing ways in which all the characters are connected. The constant return to 'before' results in a sense of nostalgia for what we haven't yet lost. Mandel points out precious elements of daily life that her characters have lost forever – the taste of an orange, the feel of air conditioning, ice cream, the ability to connect with one another by phone.

Throughout the book we also encounter Dr. Eleven, a scientist in a graphic novel that Kirsten has carried with her over the many years of post-apocalyptic life. The two volumes she owns of this tiny graphic novel sustain her. Dr. Eleven lives on a satellite, Station Eleven, after the earth is destroyed, and his story reflects her own. This imaginary graphic novel is fleshed out so wonderfully that I hope it is only a matter of time before Mandel releases a real-life edition.

This is a beautiful book; imaginative and full of complex characters, it is a post-apocalyptic novel that combines danger with beauty, sadness with hope. Mandel clearly believes that there is something good in humanity that will endure.


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