Station Eleven Book Overview
I have to warn you — there may be spoilers. Station Eleven is hands down my favorite book. There are so many characters in the book, and you will find each character intriguing. The beginning chapter moved so quickly. It captures your attention immediately.
What is the book about? The Georgia Flu wipes away most of the humanity. The story opens with a character that ties everyone together, Arthur Leander. A famous actor who has had three wives (although the first two are the important ones in the story), a distant best friend Clark Thompson, and a son dubbed “The Prophet” later on in the story.
Arthur plays Lear in the play, King Lear. During his performance, he has a heart attack. Jeevan, an EMT who was watching the play, jumps onto the stage and tries to resuscitate Arthur. Arthur and Jeevan have a past that Arthur isn’t really aware of. You encounter these key moments in various chapters in the book. Jeevan has had a plethora of professions. He was a paparazzo, turned entertainment journalist, turned EMT.
Before the fall
Arthur was married to a woman named Miranda. She’s the artist that created the graphic novel/comics of Station Eleven. Miranda is hands down one of my favorite characters of the book. You are able to see glimpses of her life before marrying Arthur, during, and after. Her comics become a crucial part of the prophet’s life and Kirsten.
Kirsten played King Lear’s daughter when Arthur was Lear. She was there when Arthur collapsed and died. One of Kirsten’s nightly rituals before going on stage was that she’d go to Arthur’s dressing room and color her coloring book. A couple of days before Arthur dies, he visits Miranda and she gives him two copies of Station Eleven. Arthur decides to give one to his son, Tyler (The Prophet), and one to Kirsten.
The night Arthur died was the beginning of the end.
It didn’t take long for people to realize it was the end of the world. When airplanes would stop flying, no running water, TV stations slowly went out, electricity was no more.
The book goes between the past and the present. Not just what the symphony is going through but who Arthur, Miranda, Clark (the best friend), Jeevan, and Elizabeth (the second wife and Tyler’s mom) were and are after the collapse. You get to understand how Tyler went from being a spoiled boy with a famous mother and father, to “The Prophet” aka the antagonist.
The story does slow down when you get to the part of the traveling symphony. My theory for the slower pace is because that is how the days feel for the characters in the world after the end. I have to admit, a flu epidemic killing off 99% of the population seems so very plausible. How do you prepare for the end? That is what I asked myself throughout the novel.
“Because survival is insufficient”
Everyone is connected some way or another. The traveling symphony — which Kirsten is a part of, travel between small towns to perform different Shakespearean plays. They arrive at St. Deborah by the water, which is a city they had performed at before. This time the city is different though. The houses, hotels, restaurants, have now been boarded up. The town isn’t as welcoming as it was before, and men are armed. Besides performing, the symphony was hoping to be reunited with former members (Charlie & Jeremy), that decided to stay in the town because Charlie was pregnant. They planned to be reunited when the symphony made the round again. Charlie and Jeremy were nowhere to be found. When Kirsten inquired about it, an old lady told her they were gone and that they should leave as soon as possible too.
Before their performance, the symphony decided to leave that night. After their performance, Tyler (The Prophet) introduced himself and asked the symphony if one of the girls (a young girl) could stay with him as his wife. The prophet had many wives that were mostly very young. A little girl who was following Kirsten around the city earlier in the day told Kirsten that people who leave without permission are “dead” and although they aren’t technically dead, the town marks a grave for them.
This is when things start speeding up
The symphony quickly leaves, encountering a young boy on their way out of town, roasting dinner for himself. During their travels, they discover the young girl snuck into one of their caravans (they have three). She told them she was promised to the prophet as a wife, which is why she escaped. The symphony knew that they had to get away as soon as possible. The goal is to get to Severn Airport, known as the Museum of Civilization, which is where Tyler (the prophet and Elizabeth) originally came from. Which is also where Clark, who for some reason reminds me of Mark Sloan, stills resides. The museum is where Jeremy and Charlie are with their child.
Members of the symphony begin to disappear. One night when Kirsten and August decide to go fishing in order to get food for everyone, they come back to find the rest of the symphony gone. They travel until they come by Sayid, one of the first two people who went missing, beaten and bloody. August and Kirsten immediately recognize the men holding the symphony members hostage. They were from St. Deborah, and followers of the prophet. Kirsten and August are able to free Sayid. He informs them exactly what happened and that the third person, Sidney, who was captured freed herself and warned the symphony of the prophet’s plan. That is why Kirsten and August were separated from the symphony.
As Kirsten, Sayid, and August were headed to the airport, the prophet and some of his followers were able to catch Kirsten. As he is holding a gun against her head, the boy who was roasting his dinner, decided to shoot the prophet. This urged August and Sayid to also kill his followers and the boy shot himself.
Afterward, they arrive at the museum and they’re reunited with the symphony, Charlie, Jeremy and their daughter. That’s when Kirsten meets Clark. He mentions Arthur, and he also finds out how Tyler/The prophet turned out. At night, Clark mentions he wants to show Kirsten something. He takes her up to a tower and points to a city with lights.
I have never read a more satisfying book. There are so much more personal stories weaved into the book. I would definitely recommend it. Yes, it’s a dystopian fiction novel, but it seems so plausible. It’s entertaining, and a great book to discuss with friends. If you’re still on the fence about reading it, just know it has a hopeful ending that’s realistic. What are your favorite books, and how would you try to survive after a collapse?
If you want to purchase Station Eleven, get it here.