Got a book recommendation from a friend phrased something like this: "Kelley, we read a book in my book club recently that everyone hated and I thought you would love it." Obviously, I went to the library ASAP to get the book.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was.... riveting. I will state up front that post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction featuring a powerful, non-sexualized female protagonist MAY be a bit of a niche. But oh I am that niche! People sometimes read these books about an ugly future and get depressed, but I see them as the opposite of depressing. Uplifting! It's the triumph of humanity in a situation where everything is hopeless. To me, science fiction is often no different than any other disaster (or in this case, post-disaster) story: whether the heroes are fighting Nazis or Cylons doesn't bother me. I'm here for the story.
And the story here is SOOOOO good. One of the curses of wishing to be an author, I've learned, is the constant struggle to love a book without dying of jealousy as you experience the author's talent. That was definitely a balance for me here. I just loved everything about the way Ms. Mandel wrote. She wafted between tenses, points of view, perspectives. She jumped chronologically, geographically, even philosophically. And she wove a story that I was alive inside. I am not usually big on sequels but I find myself wanting to go back to the vivid world she created because I became so engrossed in it in those 350 pages.
I loved one of the main characters, Kirsten. I may have pictured myself as Katniss when I read THG, but I kind of had to fade out and just be a reader again when Katniss is killing or kissing people. I felt like I could hang in there with Kirsten, living the story vicariously in her character, even when she has to make really hard decisions.
(Also, she isn't always fresh & clean in the post-disaster apocalypse, and she's self-conscious because she's missing two teeth. This is critically believable to me.) It will never NOT disappoint me to read a story with a strong female protagonist who also happens to be the most effortlessly beautiful woman any person has ever seen. Boooooo on those writers.
Instead of a movie feel where you focus on primarily one character, Station Eleven definitely has a TV mini-series feel where the reader meets different people, unsure of how they will intersect. Once they serve their collective purpose, the individual characters continue on their own journeys, and you check in with many of them to see where they landed.
My husband teases me that instead of reading an hour a night 'like a normal person,' I don't read for 10 days and then spent the eleventh day unmoving on the couch with my nose in a novel, cover to cover. And he's right--when I get into a book, I'm usually going to power straight through. And then I'm sad if it was a great story.
I was very sad when Station Eleven ended. I would go back there.