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A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA: A Novel ~Anthony Marra


When I first began reading A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA I thought I would describe it as stream of consciousness style writing or a vintage Russian Novelist’s style, and then when I would talk about the book, folks would say “I don’t want to read something like that!”  How could I share that I was fascinated by the story and was diving into the words head first only to be tossed over heels by the emotional depth and drive of the story line.  I did have to wrap myself up in a blanket as I was cold as winter in several sections of this amazing read.

CONSTELLATION is Anthony Marra’s first novel, but he has garnered prizes galore for his writing.  He is under 30 and has already completed undergraduate work; the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and won numerous awards; he works at Stanford University.   He has done a great deal of travel and study to write this story and produce this novel about 2 back to back wars in Chechnya which is quite a read.

The story takes place over 5 days in December 2004 most action centers around Hospital #6 and the last remaining doctor practicing and becoming an amazing surgeon.  Sonja, the London trained Russian physician, is the only doctor left in the hospital which used to have 500 doctors on staff.  She and a 79 year old nurse amputate, sew up, heal, and deliver babies in this building.  They have both lost a sister and are grieving, mourning, and healing. Sonja is saving lives.

The book is about war, death, disappearances, cold, hunger, fear, refugees, prostitution, slavery, illness, realities, torture and an eight year old girl.

The book is a mined field and you must learn the route and warning signs.  There are so many metaphors and symbols and truths all rolled around fantastical adjectives and swear words to satisfy any reader that the existence of the many is always, always in turmoil.  The problem-solvers and the creative are the most fluent of the survivors.

The book is a love story.

An arborist, a historian, a failed doctor all love this child and do everything within their power to save this child’s life.   “She is safe.”   She is hope.  She is future.

Reconstruction is fully on the shoulders of the survivors who were not discovered as they risked.  The world hardly knows that they are a part of this planet; until their distress is played out in Boston.

How can we as people keep continuing to make war?  How can we as human beings continue to allow torture; especially that for which we turn a blind eye? This book will leave you breathless and asking questions; ignite your circuits.

This book is about the ugliness of war and the tremendous loss when humanity is forfeited and the goal is to enjoy the pain and suffering of a defeated country with no one coming to its aid.  This is a story about the ordinary people in a small village surviving, healing, and overcoming the atrocities of WAR which are so plainly revealed to the reader and how love is the vital phenomena of living. How love overcomes our worst trials and fears.   We all need to read A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA.

Related Reading:
A Dual Inheritance
The Myths of Happiness 
When Women Were Birds 
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

tlclogo I received a Kindle proof copy of A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA from TLC books and Hogarth Publishing.

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s   from this site I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Powell’s also has signed copies of this novel available and is the STAFF PICK of the MONTH.

12 Comments on “A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA: A Novel ~Anthony Marra”

  1. #1 Talon
    on May 20th, 2013 at 8:15 am

    You do have to wonder why war is so popular…when the stakes are so high. I guess as long as we continue to devalue humanity and revere riches, it’s the price we’re all paying.

    This sounds like a must read for me, Patricia. Thank you for your reviews. Always so in-depth and thoughtful.

    Patricia Reply:

    Many thanks Kim for your kind words…
    I literally stayed up all night to finish this book – In this 16 book series I have almost finished reviewing several of the outstanding books are about war – I think Afghanistan and Iraq have really ignited the circuits of the author’s minds –
    Knowing what we really know now about the cost of war – how could we ever, ever be involved in another bloody – torturous conflict ever?

    …and over money? ugh

  2. #2 Davina Haisell
    on May 20th, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Well done, Patricia.

    Just the fact that you stayed up all night to read this book speaks volumes to me. I would want to read something that was described as stream of consciousness style writing.

    I agree with Talon, that as long as we revere riches we will pay the price. Unfortunate though, that those who are less focused on riches are dragged into the mix with everyone else. Goes to show how one decision can affect many, and how connected we all are.

    patricia Reply:

    Davina,
    I have just finished two books which make one not want to ever have another war or anyone tortured… Why can we not grow beyond these barbaric passions. This author just produces these words of truth in the middle of the story line which are breathtaking…like in the middle of a torture sequence he writes a line that it was not about the information or the politics, they were torturing for the PAIN of it

    Yes this is about the collateral damage to the people who will be creating the future and who can find food. This book is amazing experience

  3. #3 Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    on May 20th, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Thank you so much for being a part of this tour. I can’t wait to read this book myself.

    patricia Reply:

    Heather J
    Do read this book – amazing read and very timely and poignant.

    I understand why it is already a best seller. It could change the world

  4. #4 Alien Ghost
    on May 21st, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Hi Patrricia

    Growing up in a dictatorship I’ve seen some of the horrors of war, so I cannot understand why some of the people on power only pursue their gain at the cost of humanity, and why the majority of people continue their lives and don’t stop to see what’s happening, unless they become touched by disaster.

    Raul
    Alien Ghost recently posted..MetamorphosisMy Profile

    patricia Reply:

    Raul,
    I think you would like this book very, very much – it is quite the read and I would like to know what you think of it after you read it.

    You are asking some of the same questions that the author unfolds

  5. #5 Laurie Buchanan
    on May 21st, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Patricia – The warning you give really piqued my curiosity:

    “The book is a mined field and you must learn the route and warning signs.”

    Excellent way to pull me in: hook, line, and sinker!

    patricia Reply:

    Laurie,
    It is quite the read and I hope everyone I know has the opportunity to read this book.

    We should never have war – any more – it is just about power and greed these days. Mediation and diplomacy YES….War never

    I think this book might help the world change…

  6. #6 Patti Smith
    on May 23rd, 2013 at 6:56 am

    “This book will leave you breathless and asking questions; ignite your circuits”
    No doubt about this…I’m still thinking about it. This book will be one of my best of 2013…LOVED it!
    Enjoyed your review!

    patricia Reply:

    Patti Smith,
    Thank you for your comment and kind words about my review. Yes this book has ignited my circuits and I am still thinking about it nearly non-stop. I keep telling everyone about it…

    Marra’s style reminds me a bit of the first time I read Egger’s book – his memoir about parenting his younger brother after the death of his parents. I keep thinking about that book years later also

    Thank you for coming by..I appreciate your endorsement of this book.