I do not play the piano, often. Many days, I will walk by the piano without touching it. (It needs dusting, badly!) Yet when I am lucky enough to attend a concert, symphony or just catch a talented performer on YouTube, I regret my lack of practice and want to sit down and practice. At that moment. It makes me want to put in the work. I want to play better.
Emily St. John Mandel's writing makes me want to practice. I want to write better. I will never play the piano in Carnegie Hall. I will never construct a novel as seamless as Station Eleven but appreciate that Emily St. John Mandel did. The literary landscape is a little bit better because this book exists.
After the end of the world as we know it, a traveling symphony roams the Midwest, performing Shakespeare's plays along with classical symphonies. "Because survival is insufficient," a quote a character has taken from Star Trek, is written on the side of their caravan. This is a beautiful theme for the novel as it explores less what the characters had to do to physically survive and more what they do in order to live.
The novel spans decades, effortlessly weaving in and out of time, connecting and contrasting the characters' lives before and after The Collapse. My favorite character in this novel is Miranda, an artist who creates Station Eleven and regrets nothing.