A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Anthony Marra
4.1 53


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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
Dragonette More than 1 year ago
I started this book knowing very little of Chechnya.  Turns out I didn't need to know anything at all to appreciate this moving story of the human struggle to survive in an inhumane world. The author injects little bits of humor into the story that are unexpected considering the darkness of the wartime. He also has a charming habit of giving place, people and events both a forward and backward history almost as a counterpoint to the fact the the Soviets were trying their hardest to erase Chechnya' s history and make the country part of the Soviet machine.  I really loved this book and although you know that many of the characters are doomed to a gloomy end the joy is in getting to know them and their struggle to matter, to be counted, to be remembered. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to step outside of your own comfortable life for a moment and live in war torn eastern europe for a few hours.  You'll find yourself appreciating every small comfort of life that we are privileged to have.    
Nikki_F More than 1 year ago
A Stunning Debut Novel. Every once in a long while I come across a debut novel that is exceptionally spectacular; “A constellation of Vital Phenomena” by Anthony Marra is one of those novels.  It reminded me considerably of “The Almond Tree” by Michelle Cohen Corasanti, another brilliant debut.  Set in Chechnya between the years of 1994 and 2004, this novel follows the lives of the members of a small town and the family of a Russian surgeon.   Marra’s writing is beautiful and flawless.  His character development is absolutely perfect.  Each character is so remarkably human, in both their imperfections and their virtues.  The reader is immersed in the lives of these people, through every small joy and each horrible atrocity.  Marra is a remarkable storyteller.  The numerous characters’ subplots are exceptionally and beautifully interwoven.  Each has touched another’s life in a direct or indirect way.   This novel enlightens the readers of the struggles of their lives and relates every powerful emotion of a lifetime of uncertainty and struggle. This book opened my eyes in a way few of us ever experience in the United States.  “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is captivating and demonstrative of the different ways humans choose to fight for survival in the face of injustice and war.  Marra does an exemplary job allowing the reader to see from multiple viewpoints of the same conflict. This novel is life altering, thought provoking, exceptionally detailed, and absolutely unique. “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is stunning.  It is one of the best novels I have ever read.  Ever. I received this novel through Goodreads First Reads.  This in no way influenced my review.  I did not receive compensation for, nor was required to, write a review.
WashingtonianLB More than 1 year ago
Devastatingly beautiful. This is one of the few books that will truly move you. I had only basic knowledge of the Chechen wars before reading the novel, and afterwards found myself wishing that I knew more and knowing I would immediately seek out more books on the subject. Marra's ability to interweave historical facts with the personal narratives of eight diverse and interesting characters is simply brilliant. This is the best historical fiction I've read since Erik Larson's The Devil In the White City came out.  His prose is compelling and devastating-- as you read you can feel the pain that the characters are experiencing. The images of war are vivid and at some times graphic, but always right on the mark. This is a book that you fully immerse yourself in and after about 100 pages, simply cannot put down. The chapters are written on a timeline that is constantly jumping back and forth and I was very impressed by the way all the character’s storylines came back together as the book finished. Marra put an incredibly amount of thought into each word he wrote and you can feel that as you read. Do not miss this book, it will change you—you just have to let it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In my 61 years, I have read too many books to count, some good, some not worth the paper they are written on, but most of them excellent. Mr. Marra's novel is not only exceptional, in my unprofessional opinion, it is exquisite His beautifully drawn characters spent their days, their lives with me every time I opened the book. These characters will remain with me for the rest of my days, I will turn to them for strength when I am incurring "hard times". Simply put, this novel IS "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena"! Thank you. Mr. Marra for such a gift.I look forward to your next novel.
Manhattan136 More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written book - sad but unwavering story. An eloquently written lesson that life continues and goes on even in the face of unimaginable cruelty and fate. Recommend this book!
Yapjoco More than 1 year ago
“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is a brilliant debut novel by Anthony Marra. It is a story about regular people trying to survive and get on with their lives in war-torn Chechnya. The horror and deprivation that the people experience is unimaginable for most of us; yet they keep plodding forward, making the best of what they do have. The story mainly revolves around Akhmed, a failed doctor from a small town and Sonja a successful doctor basically running a partially destroyed hospital in Grozny. When Akhmed’s neighbor, Dokka, is ‘disappeared’ he takes the now orphaned eight-year-old Havaa to Sonja in Grozny to keep her safe from the Feds who are looking for her. Akhmed had heard of Sonja from a rebel commander who had passed through their town. Sonja’s sister, Natasha, had also disappeared, but of her own volition and she constantly seeks word of her sister. While Akhmed is in Grozny his neighbor Khassan, a frustrated author and father to the town informer, looks in on Akhmed’s bedridden wife. As the story unfolds in what seems like no particular order we learn what brings each of the characters to the place they are now at. Eventually the “constellation” that connects them all will be revealed. The writing is prose like and weaves back and forth in time and view-point so that the reader slowly uncovers the connections and the characters become painfully real in all their flaws and shortcomings. I highly recommend this book with the caveat that it is not for the faint of heart. There are some very vivid scenes of death and dismemberment in it. I’ll be looking forward to Marra’s next effort.
ABookishGirlBlog More than 1 year ago
For me A Constellation of Vital Phenomena started out a bit slow, after the first chapter I wasn't to sure that I was even going to finish the book, thank God I persevered because by the end of chapter four I became enthralled by this book and honestly didn't put it down until I was done with it. It is a tie between Akhmed and Natasha for my favorite character, I love how sweet Akhmed is even if he is not the world's greatest doctor and Natasha is a survivor even if she is a bit selfish. Sonja was a great character to but I couldn't get myself past her brashness to look beyond into the life that had made her that way in the first place. I loved that this war was portrayed through the people and the impact that it had on the average person and not like a history book, overrun with the facts and figures of wars. It is a testament to life and death and I found myself more mindful of how I live my life and treat others since finishing the book. I was transformed so to speak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best novel I have ever read. The writing is luminous and spell binding. I am just trying to get over the fact that the author is twenty-eight years old. Highly, highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was a great story written by a literary artist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even though the topic is sad, the writing is beautiful and takes you along on a beautiful journey. Good first novel. It would be very good for a book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deeply disturbing but highly engaging. Beautifully written but not for the faint of heart.
EZReaderAZ2 More than 1 year ago
If you know nothing about Chechnya, and its relations with Russia, this book is an eye opener. This is Marra's first book, which is hard to believe. He is a talented and accomplished writer, already. I do highly recommend it and will be watching for his next book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!  The story of so many lives that intertwine throughout the years was so cleverly written.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really makes you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so different from what I generally read but I am so glad I bought it. I was educated somewhat about Chechnya and Russia. So sad to learn the way war changes people from this very riveting story that seems so real.
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nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
Young Havaa is rescued from the woods with her little blue suitcase after her father is taken away by Russian soldiers. Her father's friend Ahkmed finds her and takes her to the hospital for safety, working a deal with Sonja, the hospital doctor, for protection for the young girl. Havaa was a very likable little girl; very endearing. Ahkmed was a good, selfless man. Although Sonja was tough and detached, she showed through her actions that she was a woman of real character, and with a lot of depth. I found that it could be difficult keeping track of the characters. Foreign names are often difficult to keep in mind, as they are so unfamiliar, but despite that, I found this book was a bit of genius and beauty, bound and titled. The way that the author would express things really moved me. This is really a character-driven story. The timeline shifts back and forth from present to past, and from the viewpoint of one character to another. The transition from past to present and vice-versa is assisted by a timeline at the top of each chapter, reflecting the year the current narration is taking place. The narrator is all-knowing, and will share tidbits of information about the future and past and present that the characters themselves don’t know. I found myself thinking during the final quarter of the book that this story is like a tapestry. Many of the characters and events were interwoven, and they would only come to light as the tapestry grew and developed. Really beautiful and brilliantly executed. This is one of those rare and uncommon novels that you come across every now and again. Provocative and riveting, it is a beautifully written story with well-developed characters that you can really care about. A lyrical and intelligent tale of war-torn Chechnya, I found myself moved. I feared for the safety of those in danger, was sickened by the brutality and indifference, and yearned for the security of all. In the end, I found this to be a hard-hitting novel that is soft in all the right places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JudithCEvans More than 1 year ago
This book is a great novel as well as a lesson in the history of Chechnya. Anthony Marra has written a story that makes me forget where I am as I am reading it. Set in war-torn Chechnya in the 1990s and early twenty-first century, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena opens as eight-year-old Havaa witnesses the destruction of her home and the abduction of her father. A neighbor named Akhmed takes the girl to a hospital, where he hopes she will find protection. Sonja, an overworked and somewhat cynical surgeon at the hospital, reluctantly agrees to shelter Havaa. The main story takes place over the next five days, but Marra also provides a history of the struggles in Chechen. The novel is a masterfully written story as well as detailed look into the horrors of war-torn Chechnya. The language is both beautiful and heartbreaking, and the novel is sure to become a classic. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a great, sweeping story and learn about Chechnya as well. I received my copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars Did I enjoy this book: Yes. When a book is as highly celebrated as this one, I wonder why authors and publishers seek my opinion. Maybe they are interested in hearing a response from an everyday, unbiased, non-expert reader. Who knows? I’m afraid I have little to offer except to add to the chorus of praise this book has received already. It’s beautifully written, poignant, and very personal. It’s everything an epic story should be. I’m often wary of stories that skip around in time and scene. It frequently interrupts the flow of the story and throws me off topic. Marra brilliantly adds a timeline to the beginning of each chapter. It’s a perfectly relevant yet uncontrived way to remind us where we are in the story. I’ve never seen time/scenes written like that before, but I liked it so much I hope future authors take note. I knocked off a half star because it’s a long, laborious read.  I think most readers will find it worth the time and effort, but it ran a little long for my taste. Would I recommend it: Yes. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Books.  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perfection with all the attributes of a world classic