NEA Big Read:  Pocumtuck Valley - On the Same Page 2021

The Jones Library is holding its 9th On the Same Page community reading program, featuring the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  This year, we are participating in a regional community read called the NEA Big Read: Pocumtuck Valley in partnership with over forty organizations and businesses in Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties.  Find a calendar with the developing list of area programming here.

The entire Amherst community is invited to read the book and participate in the related programs offered by the Jones Library, as well as those offered by other participating organizations. A variety of programs are being offered to enrich the reading experience of this best-selling title and to encourage dialog about the themes the book presents, including book discussions to delve into the book itself. 

About the Book

From the acclaimed author of 2020's The Glass Hotel, Emily St. John Mandel's 2014 novel, Station Eleven, is a sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender look at a group of survivors of a plague that wipes out much of human life on earth. It begins when a famous actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Moving back and forth in time - from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains - this suspenseful, elegiac 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.

Reviews of Station Eleven
“[An] ambitious take on a post-apocalyptic world where some strive to preserve art, culture and kindness... Think of Cormac McCarthy seesawing with Joan Didion... Mandel spins a satisfying web of coincidence and kismet... Magnetic... a breakout novel." ~ Kirkus (starred review)

“A brilliantly constructed, highly literary, post-apocalyptic page-turner." ~ Library Journal

Obtaining a Copy

Request a paperback copy for pickup at the Jones Library using this form Contact the Reference Desk at 413-259-3096 or by email for help obtaining a large print copy or a book on CD.  Borrow an e-book or an e-audiobook through Overdrive/Libby.  Purchase your own copy at Amherst Books in downtown Amherst.

Schedule of Events

  • The public is welcome at all events - it is not necessary to have read the book to attend the programs, although it is encouraged.
  • All events are free and open to the public.
  • Registration may be required to receive the Zoom link to attend certain programs.  

Monday, March 22 at 5:00 p.m. - ONLINE

Viral Exchanges: Hotspots, Spillovers, and the Reordering of Life - The word “hotspot” can mean a place where fires flare, where novel viruses appear, where human rage erupts. In the turbulence of ecological, public health, and political crises, hotspots portend disaster and death.  Drawing upon work in Liberia, this talk interrogates the ecological, economic, political and social forces at play that have simultaneously turned certain regions into profitable sites of natural resource extraction, productive enclaves of biomedical research, and hot zones of pandemic threats.
Click here to register to attend the live event or to learn about the livestream on Facebook or YouTube.

Gregg Mitman is the 2021 History Writer in Residence at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst.  He is the is the Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
The History Writer In Residence Program is presented by the UMass / Five College Graduate Program in History with support from Five Colleges, Inc. This residency is co-hosted by the Feinberg Series.

Thursday, April 8 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom

Station Eleven and Surviving Pandemics -  In Station Eleven, Mandel draws on historical pandemics and responses to them to create a distinctive post-apocalyptic vision, in which existential struggle is punctuated – and sustained – by the entertainment provided by a traveling dramatic troupe. In this new world, literature, music, and drama are not luxuries stripped away by the grim imperatives of survival, but rather are central to human society and identity.
Register via Zoom.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Anna Taylor is Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Tuesday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom
Wednesday, April 14 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom

Book Discussion of Station Eleven - Join us for an in-depth discussion of our selected title, led by Jones Library librarian Linda Wentworth.   
Please email to register - be sure to specify which session you wish to attend!  The meeting link will be sent to you after registration.
Space is limited at these small group discussions - please be sure you are able to attend the session for which you register.

Thursday, April 22 at 7:00 p.m. - ONLINE via Zoom

Travels with Station Eleven's Shakespeare - “Dost thou know me?” asks Gloucester in the performance of King Lear that opens Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.  “I remember,” replies Lear, though it is not at all clear that he does.  We soon learn that the actor playing Lear will live only moments longer, and that most of humanity will succumb within days to a devastating flu.  A very few will live.  Those few have little choice but to keep moving, travelling not only through utterly transformed spaces, but also deep inside what they can remember of the world they lost.  They take Shakespeare along for the ride, often quite literally.  Lettered in white on both sides of the Traveling Symphony’s lead caravan is the reason why: “because survival is insufficient.”  Shakespeare’s plays, two in particular, thread their way through many of the novel’s key moments.  Mandel’s people read Shakespeare.  They perform Shakespeare.  Some get their names from Shakespeare.  And some find Shakespeare insufferable.  All of them, in one way or another, seek what Gloucester and Lear sought:  to be known, and to remember.  Do any of them find what they are looking for? 
Register via Zoom.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Sally Sutherland, Senior Lecturer Emeritus in English at Mount Holyoke College, specializes in the theatre of Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists, especially as their plays have been staged, filmed, and adapted in our own time.

Author Event

Tuesday, April 27 at 7:00 pm - ONLINE 

Conversation with Emily St. John Mandel -
Join NEPM and the NEA Big Read: Pocumtuck Valley for a virtual discussion with author Emily St. John Mandel, whose Station Eleven has been called, “darkly lyrical,” “mesmerizing,” “tender and lovely.” The conversation will be hosted by NEPM's Jill Kauffman and will conclude with a live Q & A.
Register via Zoom. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
On the Same Page Amherst
Station Eleven
Emily St John Mandel

About the Author

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of five novels, including Station Eleven and The Glass HotelStation Eleven was a finalist for a National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and has been translated into thirty-two languages. The author lives in New York City with her family.  

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