A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

41tmeIAO5AL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-65,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Chechnya in the mid 1990’s is a brutal war torn place. Sonja Rabina has returned there from studying in the US and now works in a small shell of what once was a large and busy hospital in her hometown.  Like most of Chechnya the city is constantly being overrun with rebels or Feds depending on who is winning or losing at any given time, and the the common people, stuck in the crossfire struggle to survive as Sonja, the lone doctor in the city, tries to help them with her limited amount of supplies and medicines.  Sonja, like most people in Chechnya, has lost a relative and keeps hoping to find her sister who disappeared one day and never come back.

Just outside the city in a small village, Akhmed, “the worst doctor in Chechnya” wakes up one day to the sound of gunshots and sees his neighbor being dragged away and a fire set to burn down his home.  After the gunmen leave Akhmed finds his neighbor’s eight year old daughter, Havaa, cowering in the woods. Knowing that the village informer must have targeted his neighbor Akhmed risks his own life and takes Havaa to the hospital where Sonja works hoping that she will find refuge there.

Over the course of the next five days the two doctors discover deep reserves of strength and courage as they try to protect this young girl from the insanities of war and the inevitability of betrayal.  They also find links and connections that tie the three of them together in very unexpected ways and find the strength to make choices that are both sacrificial and joyful.

Marra has a very interesting technique of introducing characters and then telling something about what happens to them later on. Although this takes some getting used to, in the end it adds to the effect of seeing each person as a piece of a larger whole, a part of the constellation of vital phenomenon that we call life.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a searingly honest, and profound meditation on what it means to be human and what it takes to fully embrace life. It delves deeply into the human soul, and finds in the midst of despair and betrayal a hope that passes all understanding.

Brenda’s Rating: *****( 5 Stars out of 5)

Recommend this book to: Ken, Keith. Sharon, Marian and Lauren

Books Study Worthy: Absolutely!

Read in ebook format.

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4 Responses to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

  1. Marian says:

    This may be one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read! Thanks for recommending!

  2. LKS says:

    Brenda, thanks for recommending this book. I just finished it and found it very engaging. I would have gotten more out of it had I been able to read it over a shorter period of time. (The nonlinear presentation made it hard to connect all the dots.) And the suffering of the people all through the book made it hard to really “like” it. But it was beautifully written, as Marian said, and filled with remarkable sentences.

    • bseat says:

      Glad you liked it. I thought one of the most profound thing in this book was the way he would let us know what happened to people years later. It seemed like such a saving grace that in the midst of the pain and suffering he was describing he would also let you glimpse into the future and know that life went on, that people moved on and led productive lives.

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