A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

“The look on his face told her what had happened and that hurt burrowed deeper than anything she’d ever felt, deep enough to change from the thing she felt to the thing she was.”


51l1ADoTZzL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_A Constellation of Vital Phenomena follows a group of interconnected characters in a small village in Chechnya following the fall of the Soviet Union and multiple wars for independence. After a man named Dokka is abducted by Russian soldiers, his 8-year old daughter is taken in by Ahkmed, a neighbor and lifelong friend. Together they take on the task of surviving in what’s left of their world where “happiness came in moments of unpredictable loveliness.”

Starting this book with virtually no knowledge of Chechnya or its history, it took me a large portion of the book to feel like I could understand the characters and the context. Marra calls into question what’s worth fighting for once a community is ravaged by war and with J.K. Rowling-esque mastery, weaves these characters together into a tangled mess of a masterpiece. An omniscient narrator provides glimpses into the future beyond the plot while also conveying bits of the human experience in excruciating detail. This well-researched story is as chaotic and morally ambiguous as war itself, and like many of my favorite books, will have readers chuckling and tearing up within the same page. I appreciated the dark humor, the quirkiness of the characters, and the jumps across time throughout a very complicated 10 years of Chechnya’s history. Definitely worth carrying this one to Costa Rica with me…

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