Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

(From GoodReads) A resilient doctor risks everything to save the life of a hunted child, in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together.

In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For the talented, tough-minded Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. And she has a deeply personal reason for caution: harboring these refugees could easily jeopardize the return of her missing sister. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weave together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

(My thoughts) Mara weaves together the lives of three main characters in his debut novels that offers a haunting and sometimes chilling look at life in Chechnya during a ten year period. The language in this book quickly transports to you deep into the forest, to a war ridden village that most have deserted. The central characters lives are interconnected in unexpected ways that reveal themselves in the later pages of the novel. The chapters shift from present to past, but are clearly  marked at each chapter beginning, so as to not be confusing. The reader is introduced to what life is like in an ethnic war zone of a mostly unknown place. 

While beautifully written, this is not a light read. Its a novel that I had to put down time and time again to just digest and step away from for a bit, but it is real. War is a central character in this novel but don't let that deter you from reading this book. Its one of those novels that stays with you long after you flip the last page. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review by TLC Tours and the publishing company but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own.