A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Anthony Marra

Reviewer: Melinda
Recommendation: 5/5

“At the kitchen table she examined the glass of ice. Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared. Despite the shock of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn’t immediate, more a fade from the present tense you shared, a melting into the past, not an erasure but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, and the person you once touched now runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in the memory, but your fingers cannot hold it.”

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is set against the tangle of wars, occupations and insurgencies that have racked Chechnya since the early 1990s.

A story of three dissimilar people coping to survive in a war infested land. A story not only about war but a story intersecting three characters together through various connections. The trials facing each is the foundation for this poignant story. Marra crafted an irresistible and sensitive debut novel.

A multitude of different perspectives given by the differing three protagonists. With the varying voices and viewpoints this allows the reader multiple points to consider long after the novel’s cover has been gently closed. Sonja competent physician, professional. She is overworked and exhausted, her hard exterior is taking a beating. Akhmed a physician but rather be painting. Facing any situation thrown his way with strength and poise. With his artistic ability Akhmed reworks the faces of the ‘disappeared’ to be recovered by family. Haava an eight year girl suffering the loss of her mother, witnessing her father be taken away forcefully by soldiers and now she is residing in a hospital seeing the carnage of war daily. Other secondary characters are involved in the narrative introducing multiple facets of war affecting people – kidnapping, smuggling and more. Marra does a wonderful job covering a quantity of issues without the narrative being overdone or scattered.

Marra has left quite an impression, unbelievable this was a debut effort. His elegant and lyrically rhythmic prose immediately captured my attention. Wonderfully executed from beginning to end. A memorable novel in numerous ways. A novel unmistakably worth reading.


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