What happens when life as we know it comes to an end?
That’s the question that 2017’s One Book, One Community novel is based around.
The novel was unveiled as the 2017 reading selection in a small event at the back of the Ellis Library on the evening of Sept. 22.
The event itself, however, doesn’t start until next spring, and will run from Monday, March 13 through Saturday, April 8.
Though this was supposed to be the official unveiling, organizer and MCCC professor Cheryl Johnston noted there had been “a few leaks” of what they’d chosen: “Station Eleven”.
It’s a post-apocalyptic novel written by Emily St. John Mandel that takes place in Michigan and the surrounding Great Lakes region following a pandemic.
The novel shows that even in the wake of societal collapse, what makes us human still survives.
Johnston related what the OBOC selection committee looks for in a book, which she noted is modeled after the national program.
“We’re looking for a major author,” she said. “Somebody who has a body of work. Somebody who has received lasting recognition.”
“Station Eleven” itself won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Toronto Book Award, plus was nominated for the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner
Award for Fiction, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. There’s definitely lasting recognition here.
“We look for somebody where we can bring in an excellent speaker,” Johnston said.
With any luck, this guest speaker is the author themselves. 2014’s author, Reyna Grande (“The Distance Between Us”), was able to visit and by all accounts was a delight.
On the other hand, 2016’s author, Anthony Doerr (“All the Light We Cannot See”) was unavailable due to his surge in fame after winning the Pulitzer Prize.
“We also want a book that’s really going to be discussable,” Johnston said. “Something that can raise some issues and some topics that are worthy of discussion.”
With an event like OBOC, this is a given. The discussion and examination of ideas and issues are a staple of the program – one of its raisons d’être.
Events include a kickoff event, brown bag discussions, the speaker, showings of films and documentaries that tie to the novel, a panel discussion on a related topic, and a celebrity server night at a local eatery.
It’s only the second foray into science fiction for the program. The first was Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”, the inaugural title in 2007 when the program was still called The Big Read.
As such, “Station Eleven” is a marked change from the intervening nine books, such as the aforementioned “The Distance Between Us” (an autobiography) and “All the Light We Cannot See” (a World War II historical).
Due to the novel’s prominent use of William Shakespeare’s famous “King Lear,”
English professor William McCloskey was on hand to read portions of the book relating to the play.
McCloskey is experienced when it comes to the Bard, having played the title role in “King Lear” during the autumn of 2014.
He gave a spirited performance of the scene that is featured in the book, from memory.
While no events have yet been scheduled, Johnston assured there will be plenty coming and that they will be open to the community at large. One Book,
One Community 2017 will run from March 13 through April 8.