GOODREADS SUMMARY | Knopf | Hardcover, 333 pages | September 9th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Post-apocalyptic | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This year, I’ve added discovering more Canadian authors on my list of reading goals as I haven’t read too many novels penned by my country men. Emily St. John Mendel is a British Columbia-born novelist who has three books under her belt, none of which, has ever grace my bookshelves. While it is no surprise that I have not heard of her, my first taste of her writing went swimmingly well, to say the least.
The Georgia Flu.
The last performance of Arthur Leander’s acting career marked the beginning of the end of human civilization as we know it. A mutation of the bird flu virus was well on its way to ridding the world of 99% of its population. This was not how Arthur died, however. While performing in a production of King Lear, he collapsed in an apparent cardiac arrest. Jheevan Chaudry, and a cardiologist tried to revive him to no avail.
On a night when the wide-spread contagion was taking a swath of the general population, five people connected to Arthur will tell the story of how they witnessed the end of the world, and the beginning of a new existence.
The Beat Goes On.
Kristen Raymond was 8-years-old when the world collapsed. She was a child actress then. She doesn’t remember a lot of things. But what she remembers the most, is the actor who gave her the time of day, talked to her like a father would, and gave her the most precious of her possessions that she carried with her twenty years after the world’s demise.
Now, twenty-eight, Kristen is a part of a band of performing actors and musicians traveling the area around Lake Huron and Michigan. By foot and horse-drawn wagons, the Traveling Symphony is trying to keep the arts alive.
On one of their stops, they come across a religious cult headed by The Prophet. A man who collects underaged wives, and one who have convinced his flock that he is the way, the truth, and the light. The revelation of how the prophet relates to Arthur happened in a slow, calculated manner.
Five in a Knot.
Five intertwining stories all relate to Arthur Leander, and through flashbacks interspersed within the story, we get to know Arthur in the eyes of these people. His successes and failures; his loves and heartbreaks.
The reader will not be surprised, but it was a feeling akin to trying to find out what happened to an estranged acquaintance you’ve lost contact with.
This is a quiet novel; the world, though it succumb to the loss of technology and infrastructure, remained humane. Aside from allusions to violence in the past, very little gore happened thereafter.
Mandel successfully tells the story of the human condition that floundered and slowly flourished over the years following the apocalypse. I love the way she describes the long-dead technology as if they were artefacts from a lost world. I supposed in all manner of speaking, they really were. She will make you feel a potent nostalgia for the daily comforts that we so often take for granted. Such is the power of her prose.