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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

This spring break, I picked up Emily St. John Mandel’s newest novel, Sea of Tranquility. As a big fan of Mandel’s Station Eleven, which was originally published in 2014 but saw a resurgence of popularity in 2020 due to its timely focus on a pandemic, I had high expectations for Sea of Tranquility

On its surface, Sea of Tranquility is a time travel book and, like Station Eleven, centers on a pandemic as one of its key plot points. The narrative jumps from 1912 to 2020 to 2203, even spanning as far into the future as 2401, with a diverse cast of characters featuring an exiled Englishman and a famous writer from a moon colony, to name a few. 

There’s nothing I love more in a book than the interweaving of multiple storylines into one big narrative web, and Mandel does this beautifully in her work. The connections between the characters across the centuries slowly grow clearer, and the book becomes impossible to put down.  

Although time travel does drive the plot of the novel, it is by no means the only subject of the book. To me, the novel’s true highlights were much more subtle and relatable, focusing on the beauty of small moments and the interconnectedness of humanity.

Mandel also paints an interesting portrait of the future of our world. In Sea of Tranquility, the future holds not only colonies on Earth’s moon but “Far Colonies” located on the moons of distant planets. By allowing the reader to travel through time, Mandel comments on humanity’s persistent belief that we are living at the “end of the world,” despite the fact that the world continues to prevail. Mandel writes, “We want to believe that we’re uniquely important, that we’re living at the end of history, that now, after all these millennia of false alarms, now is finally the worst that it’s ever been, that finally, we have reached the end of the world.”
Overall, Mandel’s latest novel is much more than a time travel story. With her beautiful writing style and lovingly crafted characters, Mandel pulls the reader through time and space without allowing the mechanics of the journey to displace the narrative. If you haven’t already read Sea of Tranquility, it’s time to add it to your list!

Sophia Stockton

UC Berkeley '24

Sophia is a junior at UC Berkeley, where she is currently studying sociology and psychology. Originally from San Diego, Sophia spends most of her free time at the beach, listening to music, cooking, or taking photos.