Online Reading Challenge – March Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read our main title, Station Eleven, or did you find something else to read?

Station Eleven is one of my favorite books, but it can be difficult to read at times. The fear, the isolation, the unrelenting unknown can sometimes cut a little too close to what we went through with Covid. Fortunately, Covid was not quite as deadly or as fast acting (although close enough) to the flu that swept through the population in Station Eleven and while our world has not changed as dramatically as it did in the book, it is different from what was before.

One thing I love about Station Eleven is the traveling band of actors and musicians, spreading a little bit of culture and beauty, that despite all of the loss and heartbreak, humans crave something more. (The quote from Star Trek that Mandel uses reflects this beautifully – “survival is not enough”) The traveling band provides some relief, a sense of community and ties to a past that is gone forever. I also liked how the passage of time after their pandemic is shown, how the “before” time slowly become stories and legends – it made me wonder about our history and how much of it has faded and shifted over time.

In the end I found Station Eleven to be full of hope – that good still exists, that humans can adapt and move forward, that even at the end of the world, there is reason to carry on.

How did you feel about the book you read this month? Was there a theme of fear and isolation in, but also optimism for the future? Or were people too burdened by grief and heartbreak? How do the worlds in each book look different from before and after? What are the lasting affects on the survivors? Has your thinking about the past and how stories are remembered changed? How are memories an imperfect record of the past, but also powerful reminders?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of this month’s reading challenge!

Online Reading Challenge – March

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s time for a new Book Flight! This month our books focus on pandemics and how individuals react to a post-pandemic world. There is exploration of what was lost and how to move forward, the search for answers and cures and basic survival. They are not without hope though, as the protagonists in each title grow and change and even thrive.

Pandemics are not new to human history with the bubonic plague and the 1918 influenza being two of the most notable. Because we are still recovering from COVID-19, some of the subject matter may be triggering. Please read with caution!

This month’s main title is Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. Written before 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19, it nevertheless has several eerie similarities.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production. Jeevan Chaudhary, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside as life disintegrates outside. This novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

This book is also available as an e-book on Libby.

Alternate titles are: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the “Plague Village,” in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, a tainted bolt of cloth from London carries bubonic infection to this isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners. A visionary young preacher convinces the villagers to seal themselves off in a deadly quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. The story is told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Anna Frith, the vicar’s maid, as she confronts the loss of her family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna emerges as an unlikely and courageous heroine in the village’s desperate fight to save itself.

Also available as an e-book on Libby.

Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

A chronicle of Victorian London’s worst cholera outbreak traces the day-by-day efforts of Dr. John Snow, who put his own life on the line in his efforts to prove his previously dismissed contagion theory about how the epidemic was spreading.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters a chance at a better life. Their dreams are short-lived. Just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges that surround them, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

Also available in Large Print and as an e-book on Libby.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

A novel set in 1918 Dublin offers a three-day look at a maternity ward during the height of the Great Flu pandemic. In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have fallen sick are quarantined into a separate ward to keep the plague at bay. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders, a woman doctor who is a rumored Rebel, and a teenage girl, Bridie, procured by the nuns from their orphanage as an extra set of hands.
Also available as an e-book and an e-audio book, both on Libby.
I actually read Station Eleven shortly after it was published in 2015 (and I loved it – highly recommended) so I’m going to read As Bright as Heaven for this month’s challenge. I think this will be an interesting and eye-opening month of reading!