Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Once again, Books on the Nightstand recommended an amazing book! This one is Marra's debut novel and I'm just jealous. It's so beautifully written, so uniquely constructed, that it feels like an old soul wrote this. I can't wait to read more of his work. The BotN review said you clutch the book to your chest when you are done. I forgot about that, but I really did hug this book when I finished. It's that good.

We are in Chechnya and, while technically, we focus on a few characters, the lives of the characters are rich enough to pull others into their orbit and we learn about them as well. Eight year old Havaa manages to escape to the woods while Russian soldiers abduct her dad (it's called disappearing and is frightfully common). She teams up with family friend, Akhmed, who is a pretty poor doctor but a wonderful artist. He squirrels her away to a hospital to stay in hiding with a doctor named Sonja.

While the present day story that encompasses the above characters takes place within a week, we move back and forth between past and present for Natasha, Sonja's missing sister. For Khassan and Ramzan, neighbors of Akhmed who turn out to have a heavy hand in his fate.  For Dokka, Havaa's father. Each chapter has a timeline at the top so you won't get lost in the past :)

The book is beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring. I did not know the extent of the war in Russia and what it did to the people who were left behind. It's devastating and you want the characters to triumph.

Marra lists many books in the back that give more info on the war and Chechnya. I see extra reading on the horizon.

More info on Chechnya