...or electricity or air conditioning or insulin or any comforts?
Such is the world in Station Eleven after a pandemic wipA World Without Social Media?
...or electricity or air conditioning or insulin or any comforts?
Such is the world in Station Eleven after a pandemic wipes out most of the Earth's population.
I love stories about killer viruses. Patient zero, virus mutation, vaccine development--they all thrill me. Imagine my disappointment when the story bounces from a glimpse of the mysterious Georgian flu to twenty years in the future, featuring a roving band of Shakespearian actors traveling through the desolate countryside. Ugh.
Thankfully the plot meanders back to the characters introduced at the beginning, exploring their lives before and after the flu. Some of the characters are rather interesting, but others (like Arthur) I barely got to know. I didn't connect with any of the characters except for mild interest in Jeevan, whose ending is unknown.
I liked how Calvin and Hobbes (one of my favorite cartoons) inspired Miranda's graphic novel, but struggled to decipher how the drawings of Station Eleven related to the story. (I hope the smart women of book club can enlighten me.)
Maybe I didn't grasp just how bad things were after the flu, but why couldn't people start to rebuild civilization within 20 years? I guess there were glimpses of new beginnings, but I was surprised the indomitable human spirit didn't shine brighter in this story.
The writing is excellent and kept me turning the pages. It's definitely interesting to imagine a post-apocalyptic life--how would each of us cope?...more
I enjoyed this author's first two novels, and this read is another unique, well-written story. While it covers a horrifying tThe Pain of Clipped Wings
I enjoyed this author's first two novels, and this read is another unique, well-written story. While it covers a horrifying time in US history, I found it a bit plodding and not as emotionally involving as her other books.
Sarah Grimke (based on a real person) is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in Charleston, South Carolina in the early 19th century. The evils of slavery persist around her, personified by Sarah's young maid, Handful (Hetty). Sarah watches helplessly as her mother canes the slaves for any perceived transgression.
Handful loves her mauma, who tells stories about Africa and sews gorgeous quilts with red triangles (signifying wings). Mauma's "story quilt", a narrative of the abuses and strengths of her life, is the only way to express herself in their oppressive, terrifying lives. It's sickening to watch what happens to Handful and her family over the course of the book.
While this story focuses on slavery, gender inequalities also inevitably surface. I feel blessed I live in a world in which the rights of all humans have progressed. This story made me question what I would do if I lived in a time characterized by such blatant racism and sexism. Sarah teaches her younger sister, Nina, to challenge authority, and Sarah and Nina do the best they can to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. Still, it feels like they barely crack the surface in helping foment change. It will take a civil war to start to make a difference.
As Sarah tells Handful, "I've failed in many things, even in my love for you, but I think of you as my friend."
As amazing as these women are, I was puzzled I didn't feel more of an emotional connection to Sarah. But there was one part of the story which completely resonated, making me re-examine a time from my personal history. Sarah meets a Quaker widower, Israel, and helps tutor his children. She is drawn to Israel, but he sends mixed messages. Over time, Sarah changes her dream of becoming a lawyer (unheard of of a woman at that time) to becoming a Quaker minister. When Israel finally asks her to marry him, he doesn't understand why she won't give up that dream.
"There are things I must do. Please, Israel, don't make me choose."
"Wouldn't I, wouldn't we be enough for you?" he said. "You would be a wonderful wife and the best of mothers. We would see to it that you never missed your ambition."
It was his way of telling me. I could not have him and myself both.
That choice feels suffocating, then and now.
Sarah grows stronger throughout the story. Handful observes, Sarah had a firm look in her eye and her voice didn't dither and hesitate like it used to. She'd been boiled down to a good, strong broth. But it's Handful who is a bastion of fortitude. She is my favorite character....more
This page-turner kept me up until 3:00 a.m. It appears to be a brave exploration of the author's personal family demons. While I likedEnding the Cycle
This page-turner kept me up until 3:00 a.m. It appears to be a brave exploration of the author's personal family demons. While I liked it better than Ugly Love, it wasn't my favorite CoHo novel.
Lily has recently finished grad school when her abusive father dies. She's musing about her anti-eulogy on a rooftop when a handsome guy comes up to the roof to vent about something without knowing she's watching him.
First Ryle beats the crap out of a deck chair, then he smokes pot. Lily learns he's a neurosurgeon. (Hello, McDreamy!) Knowing marijuana's effects on the brain, I wouldn't want MY neurosurgeon to be a pot smoker. Something is off with him yet Lily feels drawn in.
I never really connected with Ryle (with good reason, it turns out), and I didn't get a good sense of the other man in her life, Atlas, because once again (like in Ugly Love) a major part of the story happens almost entirely in the past. I'm hoping the next novel this author chooses to write (which I'm sure I'll devour) happens in the present so I can savor the characters more.
I do like how Lily and Ryle start right off the bat sharing "naked truths", which allow them to get deep in a brief time. The naked truths feel ironic given what happens later in the book. They're a good device to show that even if we think we know someone, there may be layers unknown to us.
I also like Ryle's confession about his concerns over adding a relationship to his busy professional life. I have had those exact same thoughts:
I was worried that being in a relationship would add to my responsibilities. That's why I've avoided them my whole life...But after tonight, I realized that maybe a lot of people are just doing it wrong. Because what's happening between us doesn't feel like a responsibility. It feels like a reward.
When Lily was a teenager, she fell in love with a homeless boy, Atlas. She reveals their story through journal entries. When Atlas asks Lily why she loves gardening, her explanation leads him to make a comparison:
"Plants reward you based on the amount of love you show them. If you're cruel to them or neglect them, they give you nothing. But if you care for them and love them the right way, they reward you with gifts in the form of vegetables or fruits or flowers."
"We're just alike," he said. "Plants and humans. Plants need to be loved the right way in order to survive. So do humans. We rely on our parents from birth to love us enough to keep us alive. And if our parents show us the right kind of love, we turn out as better humans overall. But if we're neglected..."
Family dynamics fascinate me and I wish there was more exploration of the family history. We get a good sense of Lily's horror when family dysfunction repeats itself, but I have trouble connecting the dots between Ryle's family trauma and his adult behavior. And I want counseling for these characters to heal from their traumas.
But I LOVED Lily's mother's wisdom when Lily needed it the most.