Read: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel

This is not the type of book that I typically go for.  Dystopian fiction, in general, is not really my thing.  I don’t love the hopelessness brought on by thoughts of the end-of-the-world, the fear of being one of a few survivors of an apocalyptic change, or, perhaps worse, the fear of not surviving it.

After so many recommendations and great reviews, however, I decided to read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and I am glad that I did.  The post-apocalyptic tale begins with a performance of King Lear in Toronto in which tragedy befalls the lead actor.  The actor's fate is quickly overshadowed by the rapid spread of a deadly flu that wipes out most of Earth's population within weeks.  The novel follows the lives of various characters, but most specifically a group of actors and musicians who travel in a pack performing symphonies and Shakespearian plays calling themselves the Traveling Symphony, as they attempt to survive in a post-apacolyptic world.  

Mandel is an excellent storyteller and she creates as much a mystery as a dystopian novel by cleverly interweaving her characters' lives and fates.  The flashbacks interspersed throughout the book tie the past (pre-flu era) to the present in a way that makes it impossible not to be intrigued.  She paints fascinatingly terrifying visions of what the post-pandemic world is like and describes them mostly from the perspective of Kirsten, one of the children in that production of King Lear in Toronto, who is now an adult player in the Traveling Symphony.  She forces her readers to confront the violence and rawness of human nature in the absence of security.  My favorite line from the book is "Hell is the absence of the people you long for."

I found this book so compelling, I had trouble putting it down.  For four days straight, I had trouble thinking of much other than what it would be like to live in a Station Eleven world.  Mandel did not convince me to continue reading dystopian literature, but I give this book high marks for its creative story and excellent character development.  It is well worth your time.

Read: A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea by Melissa Fleming

Over the years, I have struggled with the content of this blog.  It initially began as a platform to share weekly menu plans and recipes.  As family life evolved it became increasingly more difficult to compose the recipes and capture the images of what I'm putting on our dinner table and, consequently, easier to capture moments of life with my boys.  

Sometimes the content is mundane, other times (potentially) more profound.  I think I have finally come to peace knowing that what this blog represents is me.  It is a place where I can share aspects of my life that I choose (and find the time) to write about.  It is not a blog that is hyper-focused on one theme, such as crafts or food or travel, because I am more of a generalist with a variety of interests and that is what I find myself wanting to share here- varying aspects of my day-to-day.

I've been spending more time lately with a book in hand.  I love to read and if left up to me, would spend several hours each day curled in a chair with a book and a blanket, and either a glass of wine or a cup of tea.  I am also curious about what other people are reading and love to add recommendations to my list.  I thought I would start posting about books as I read them (and, of course, if I find spare time), so that you may find some inspiration in what I have read, but also so that I have a record of some of the books that fill my days.

In A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, portrays an account of the refugee crisis as experienced by one Syrian woman, Doaa al-Zamel.  

Dora's story is the story of so many Syrians, so many refugees, and it is full of sorrow and tragedy as she flees a war torn homeland with her fiancé to find brief respite in a neighboring border country until life becomes miserably untenable there, and she is forced to make the dangerous, but understandable, decision to travel to Europe.

Her story becomes increasingly harrowing, and the narrative moves with a steady drumbeat towards a horrific conclusion.  I found the story so powerful at times that I stayed awake into the late night not being able to put the book down.  Her story shed light on the refugee crisis in a personal way, pressing me into empathy and forcing me past indifference.  And, I respected Fleming's occasional inclusion of explanation on the political situation since I admittedly needed a reminder of particular names of leaders and groups.

I definitely recommend this book, particularly if you, like me, have not read many refugee stories before.  It is a call to action and solidarity and I applaud the work of Fleming in telling the type of story that is too often glossed over or forgotten.