Do you know what’s bad about reading a book this good? You know the next few books you read couldn’t possibly move you in the same way. Few books have haunted me like this one has. I found myself reading it compulsively, in my car at red lights, and while ignoring the oven timer. Emily St. John Mandel has woven this lovely, strange story about a group of traveling musicians and actors who are survivors in a world where civilization has ended due to a virus called the Georgia Flu. There is a lot of back-and-forth through time, and she follows one man, a famous actor, and the people he loved and hurt throughout his life, and how they fare when the virus hits.
My favorite parts came when the author talked about the things missing from the world post-flu. And it’s such a cliche, but it’s everything we take for granted today. Like opening a refrigerator and having a light turn on and cold seep out; the beauty of a plane taking off down a runway; the ability to live in New York and talk to someone in Israel by pressing buttons on a phone. Mandel captures the entire gamut of emotions humans would seemingly face during the end of the world: disbelief, insanity, despair, but then she gives us hope. There is hope that human beings would be able to pick up the pieces and construct a new life – that kids could be taught in a school again, that a neighborhood could generate electricity, and that people would continue to fall in love and marry and bring children into the world.
I have a feeling that this book won’t soon leave me. I already want to reread it. I’m grateful for Mandel’s imagination, which is unlike any I’ve read before. I’m grateful for the characters and the world that she so lovingly and carefully created. This is one that I can’t wait to share with everyone that I know who loves to read. And I’m definitely choosing it for book club!