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