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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Stegner Fellow Iowa MFA and winner of the Atlantic's emerging writer contest Anthony Marra has written a brilliant debut novel that brings to life an abandoned hospital where a tough minded doctor decides to harbour a hunted young girl with powerful conseuences      In the final days of December 2004 in a small rural village in Chechnya 8 year. This beautiful and haunting novel is one of my favorite books of 2013 It takes place in post war Chechnya but don t be alarmed if you don t know much about the Chechen conflict with Russia the rich storytelling and the gorgeous prose will draw you in and by the end of the book you could captivate an audience with these wartime stories But first you must meet Havaa a precocious little girl whose father was just taken by federal forces probably never to be seen again Havaa ran into the woods to hide which is why the soldiers didn t find her The girl s mother is dead and she has no one else A neighbor Akhmed helps Havaa escape to a nearby town and convinces a doctor Sonja to look after her Soon our cast of characters will expand and we will meet Akhmed s wife Havaa s father Sonja s sister and other residents in the village of Eldar each of them with a story to tellOne of my favorite characters was Sonja a tough doctor who left Chechnya to attend medical school in London but she returned to her war torn country to try and help her sister Natasha who later disappeared Though she was the elder Sonja was always thought of as Natasha s sister the object rather than the subject of any sentence the two shared She walked alone down the school corridors head sternly bent toward the stack of books in her arms Sonja had academic journal subscriptions than friends She could explain advanced calculus to her fifth form algebra teacher but couldn t tell a joke to a boy at lunch Even in the summer months she had the complexion of someone who spent too much time in a cellar Everyone knew Sonja was destined for great things but no one knew what to do with her until thenAnother character I loved was Akhmed a man who studied to be a doctor but who would rather have been an artist He jokes that he is the worst doctor in Chechnya but he still manages to help his patients and their families sometimes by drawing portraits of those who have been killed or taken by the fedsAnthony Marra s writing is beautiful with stunning sentences that made me pause and reread them If I hadn t been reading a library book I would have underlined innumerable paragraphs The page long sentence on p 139 was so emotional and breathtaking that I actually gasped Each chapter opens with a timeline pinpointing a year between 1994 and 2004 and the flashbacks illuminate what happened to our characters during the war While the chapter focuses on one character s perspective the stories ebb and flow together like overlapping melodies This is a novel whose plotting and gracefulness I admired so much that as soon as I had finished it I immediately wanted to start over and read it again What details What connections This is the kind of novel I love to read one that is complex and meaningful and full of humanity and life and I wish I could give a copy to every bookish friend I know Ann Patchett who is one of my favorite writers told The New York Times that this was her favorite book she s read this year AgreedNote If you re wondering what the title means it is taken from a definition in a medical dictionary Life a constellation of vital phenomena organization irritability movement growth reproduction adaptation Palestrina and Other Plays rural village in Chechnya 8 year. This beautiful and haunting novel is one of my favorite books of 2013 It takes place in post war Chechnya but don t be alarmed if you don t know much about the Chechen conflict with Russia the Blackmailed By Daddy rich storytelling and the gorgeous prose will draw you in and by the end of the book you could captivate an audience with these wartime stories But first you must meet Havaa a precocious little girl whose father was just taken by federal forces probably never to be seen again Havaa उरलं सुरलं [Urla Surla] ran into the woods to hide which is why the soldiers didn t find her The girl s mother is dead and she has no one else A neighbor Akhmed helps Havaa escape to a nearby town and convinces a doctor Sonja to look after her Soon our cast of characters will expand and we will meet Akhmed s wife Havaa s father Sonja s sister and other Cock Tales residents in the village of Eldar each of them with a story to tellOne of my favorite characters was Sonja a tough doctor who left Chechnya to attend medical school in London but she Son of the Hero returned to her war torn country to try and help her sister Natasha who later disappeared Though she was the elder Sonja was always thought of as Natasha s sister the object The Alien Jigsaw rather than the subject of any sentence the two shared She walked alone down the school corridors head sternly bent toward the stack of books in her arms Sonja had academic journal subscriptions than friends She could explain advanced calculus to her fifth form algebra teacher but couldn t tell a joke to a boy at lunch Even in the summer months she had the complexion of someone who spent too much time in a cellar Everyone knew Sonja was destined for great things but no one knew what to do with her until thenAnother character I loved was Akhmed a man who studied to be a doctor but who would Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Human Learning rather have been an artist He jokes that he is the worst doctor in Chechnya but he still manages to help his patients and their families sometimes by drawing portraits of those who have been killed or taken by the fedsAnthony Marra s writing is beautiful with stunning sentences that made me pause and The Illusion of Gods Presence reread them If I hadn t been Folk Tales From The Soviet Union reading a library book I would have underlined innumerable paragraphs The page long sentence on p 139 was so emotional and breathtaking that I actually gasped Each chapter opens with a timeline pinpointing a year between 1994 and 2004 and the flashbacks illuminate what happened to our characters during the war While the chapter focuses on one character s perspective the stories ebb and flow together like overlapping melodies This is a novel whose plotting and gracefulness I admired so much that as soon as I had finished it I immediately wanted to start over and Not The Hot Chick read it again What details What connections This is the kind of novel I love to Pegged and Plugged at the Club read one that is complex and meaningful and full of humanity and life and I wish I could give a copy to every bookish friend I know Ann Patchett who is one of my favorite writers told The New York Times that this was her favorite book she s Tunnel Through Time read this year AgreedNote If you Game of Bimbofication, Part 3 re wondering what the title means it is taken from a definition in a medical dictionary Life a constellation of vital phenomena organization irritability movement growth Game of Bimbofication, Part 2 reproduction adaptation

summary â PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ✓ Anthony Marra

Icate mystery of coincidence betrayal and forgiveness that unexpectedly binds them and decides their fate     With The English Patient's dramatic sweep and The Tiger's Wife's expert sense of place Marra gives us a searing debut about the transcendent power of love in wartime and how it can cause us to become greater than we ever thought possible. We all know as William Tecumseh Sherman once noted that War is Hell Later Jean Paul Sartre concluded that Hell is other people It therefore stands to reason that war is other people Good thing for me that it s about others because what Marra described in this book sounded awful We got chopped off fingers burned down houses torture induced ratting and a whole host of other atrocities It was set in Chechnya in 2004 with much of the story backfilled from the prior decade of war Russian politics and regional dynamics were deemphasized though so it was somewhat generically about any oppressed occupied state The focus was clearly on the human side Three main characters filled the pages The story began as eight year old Havaa watched her house burn down from the relative safety of the forest she was told to hide in when the Russian soldiers arrived She became far safer when neighbor Akhmed a kindly but inept doctor walked her to a hospital where there was one remaining doctor a Russian named Sonja His best hope for Havaa was that the brusue but talented Sonja would take the girl in Havaa was precocious and was maybe one of the few people in Sonja s league intellectually so that helped her odds But these things have to develop at novel length pace right The cumulative conflict along the way has to reach a tipping point A secondary set of characters got POV spotlights as well including Akhmed s physically and mentally compromised wife Havaa s loving father who had just been taken away Sonja s beautiful better liked now missing sister and an old villager named Khassan who had written a massive history of the Chechen people Khassan s son a pariah for informing on his neighbors had a story too a sad multi sided one The title came from an old medical textbook Sonja owned Only one entry supplied an adeuate definition and she circled it with red ink and referred to it nightly Life a constellation of vital phenomena organization irritability movement growth reproduction adaptation Marra no doubt wanted this to apply widely to his entire book with life intensified by perils of death Did he succeed Well I ve been trying to sort that out It s safe to say that he s a young man with promise And I give him plenty of points for ambition The parts I d criticize are really a matter of taste I know too given all the stars this one gets from discerning friends that my own view is not the popular one but I did find it a tad overdone This may seem odd coming from a guy whose catch phrase is Nothing exceeds like excess but at times I felt that A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was an entanglement of florid descriptors or maybe an agglomeration of symphonious hyperbole More than once I got a sense of him in a creative writing class vying for teacher s pet status The structuring was fine with the to and fro in time generally adding interest He did have this uirk though were he d randomly fast forward the life of some insignificant character telling us for no apparent reason that say twenty eight years after the war a nameless sentry we just met retired from his career as a teacher It was a device that called attention to itself and risked breaking the spell Better to crawl deeper into the skin of someone we re meant to care aboutI m giving this 35 stars and rounding to 4 The vitality is there as is the poignancy The fact that I debated my own feelings about it meant that he made me think which I should count as a good thing I ll be interested to see what a few years of ripening will do to Marra as a writer It s a good bet his book of short stories The Tsar of Love and Techno will influence my eventual view The Illusion of Gods Presence reason that war is other people Good thing for me that it s about others because what Marra described in this book sounded awful We got chopped off fingers burned down houses torture induced Folk Tales From The Soviet Union ratting and a whole host of other atrocities It was set in Chechnya in 2004 with much of the story backfilled from the prior decade of war Russian politics and Not The Hot Chick regional dynamics were deemphasized though so it was somewhat generically about any oppressed occupied state The focus was clearly on the human side Three main characters filled the pages The story began as eight year old Havaa watched her house burn down from the Pegged and Plugged at the Club relative safety of the forest she was told to hide in when the Russian soldiers arrived She became far safer when neighbor Akhmed a kindly but inept doctor walked her to a hospital where there was one Tunnel Through Time remaining doctor a Russian named Sonja His best hope for Havaa was that the brusue but talented Sonja would take the girl in Havaa was precocious and was maybe one of the few people in Sonja s league intellectually so that helped her odds But these things have to develop at novel length pace Game of Bimbofication, Part 3 right The cumulative conflict along the way has to Game of Bimbofication, Part 2 reach a tipping point A secondary set of characters got POV spotlights as well including Akhmed s physically and mentally compromised wife Havaa s loving father who had just been taken away Sonja s beautiful better liked now missing sister and an old villager named Khassan who had written a massive history of the Chechen people Khassan s son a pariah for informing on his neighbors had a story too a sad multi sided one The title came from an old medical textbook Sonja owned Only one entry supplied an adeuate definition and she circled it with Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions, Vol. 1 of 5 red ink and The Fatima Century referred to it nightly Life a constellation of vital phenomena organization irritability movement growth Leah Starrs Revenge reproduction adaptation Marra no doubt wanted this to apply widely to his entire book with life intensified by perils of death Did he succeed Well I ve been trying to sort that out It s safe to say that he s a young man with promise And I give him plenty of points for ambition The parts I d criticize are Pieces 8 (Pieces, really a matter of taste I know too given all the stars this one gets from discerning friends that my own view is not the popular one but I did find it a tad overdone This may seem odd coming from a guy whose catch phrase is Nothing exceeds like excess but at times I felt that A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was an entanglement of florid descriptors or maybe an agglomeration of symphonious hyperbole More than once I got a sense of him in a creative writing class vying for teacher s pet status The structuring was fine with the to and fro in time generally adding interest He did have this uirk though were he d Time Flies and Other Short Plays randomly fast forward the life of some insignificant character telling us for no apparent Drawing Dead (Faolan OConnor Book 1) retired from his career as a teacher It was a device that called attention to itself and Trails & Tales of Yosemite & the Central Sierra risked breaking the spell Better to crawl deeper into the skin of someone we Chinas Son re meant to care aboutI m giving this 35 stars and Welcome to the Desert of the Real rounding to 4 The vitality is there as is the poignancy The fact that I debated my own feelings about it meant that he made me think which I should count as a good thing I ll be interested to see what a few years of Dead End Bluff ripening will do to Marra as a writer It s a good bet his book of short stories The Tsar of Love and Techno will influence my eventual view

Anthony Marra ✓ 0 read

Old Havaa hides in the woods when her father is abducted by Russian forces Fearing for her life she flees with their neighbour Akhmed to the bombed out hospital where Sonya the one remaining doctor treats a steady stream of wounded rebels and refugees Over the course of 5 dramatic days Akhmed and Sonya reach back into their pasts to unravel the intr. Anthony Marra s Chechnya is every bit as bleak and brutal as the post apocalyptic world Cormac McCarthy creates in The Road Life is valued by the governing powers as cheaply as in the Nazi concentration camps The novel isn t so much about the wars in Chechnya per se as how individuals relate to each other when law and order has been perverted out of all recognition and they only have their own moral compass as a guide The novel features eight characters who will all have a bearing on each other s lives These characters are paired up a father and a daughter two sisters a father and a son and a husband and wife In common with other contemporary American writers Foer Krauss Lethem and the Australian Peter Carey Marra s characters are all of the uirky and socially dysfunctional variety a 21st century tribute to Dickens groundbreaking legacy These characters of Marra s made me think a lot about the role of character in the novel How for example the best novels create a new human archetype Don uixote Heathcliff Madame Bovary Anna Karenina old man Karamazov Rhoda Molly Bloom spring immediately to mind And how rarely 21st century novels have scaled these heights in characterisation For all DeLillo s stunning prose and uncanny percipience regarding the modern world he hasn t really created a new character Offhand only Elena Ferrante s Lila springs to mind as a character who has added a truly distinctive and memorable face to the pantheon Beguiling though Marra s characters are you can also sense the artifice There s something artificially constructed about them They don t uite ring true He s a little over anxious that they charm and entertain us Marra is a fabulous storyteller He s also a very good prose writer And a highly accomplished architect Technically he ticks all the boxes It s very clever for example how five days in the novel bring to a head the emotionally fraught events of ten years in the lives of his characters And clever too how he uses ostensibly crass artefacts to create plot continuity and epiphany But overall I felt the characters let this novel down a bit They were just a bit too standard uirky a bit too effortlessly loveable It s a novel that appealed greatly to my mind but didn t uite win over my heart For all its cleverness I found it a little bit soulless a bit too self consciously forged from the mantras of a modern American writer workshop program Illustrated Workbook for Self-Therapy for Your Inner Critic rebels and Earthfall (Homecoming, refugees Over the course of 5 dramatic days Akhmed and Sonya A Daddy for Christmas reach back into their pasts to unravel the intr. Anthony Marra s Chechnya is every bit as bleak and brutal as the post apocalyptic world Cormac McCarthy creates in The Road Life is valued by the governing powers as cheaply as in the Nazi concentration camps The novel isn t so much about the wars in Chechnya per se as how individuals Banned in Britain relate to each other when law and order has been perverted out of all Hour of the Beast recognition and they only have their own moral compass as a guide The novel features eight characters who will all have a bearing on each other s lives These characters are paired up a father and a daughter two sisters a father and a son and a husband and wife In common with other contemporary American writers Foer Krauss Lethem and the Australian Peter Carey Marra s characters are all of the uirky and socially dysfunctional variety a 21st century tribute to Dickens groundbreaking legacy These characters of Marra s made me think a lot about the Dictionary Of Dreams role of character in the novel How for example the best novels create a new human archetype Don uixote Heathcliff Madame Bovary Anna Karenina old man Karamazov Rhoda Molly Bloom spring immediately to mind And how The Love of a Latino rarely 21st century novels have scaled these heights in characterisation For all DeLillo s stunning prose and uncanny percipience Other Days, Other Eyes regarding the modern world he hasn t Deception Island really created a new character Offhand only Elena Ferrante s Lila springs to mind as a character who has added a truly distinctive and memorable face to the pantheon Beguiling though Marra s characters are you can also sense the artifice There s something artificially constructed about them They don t uite The Family ring true He s a little over anxious that they charm and entertain us Marra is a fabulous storyteller He s also a very good prose writer And a highly accomplished architect Technically he ticks all the boxes It s very clever for example how five days in the novel bring to a head the emotionally fraught events of ten years in the lives of his characters And clever too how he uses ostensibly crass artefacts to create plot continuity and epiphany But overall I felt the characters let this novel down a bit They were just a bit too standard uirky a bit too effortlessly loveable It s a novel that appealed greatly to my mind but didn t uite win over my heart For all its cleverness I found it a little bit soulless a bit too self consciously forged from the mantras of a modern American writer workshop program

  • Paperback
  • 416
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
  • Anthony Marra
  • English
  • 10 November 2019
  • 9780307362636

About the Author: Anthony Marra

ANTHONY MARRA is the winner of a Whiting Award Pushcart Prize and the Narrative Prize A Constellation of Vital Phenomena won the 2014 National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize and the 2014 Anisfield Wolf Book Award in fiction as well as the inaugural 2014 Carla Furstenberg Cohen Fiction Award Marra’s novel was a National Book Award long list selection as well as a shortlist



10 thoughts on “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

  1. says:

    The history of ethnic strife in Chechnya is long and confusing Anthony Marra bypasses the facts and figures and takes us directly into the lives of ordinary people trying to make a meaningful existence amid the rubble and death and ongoing violence Living in a state of constant trauma changes all the rules Young and old ethnic Russians and Chechen Muslims the characters' lives intersect in such a way that they

  2. says:

    Verbose and mundane in tone but—somewhat?—enlightening to a reader unfamiliar with Chechen history Recently mesmerized by a stunning debut one that made me step back and look at the people in my life a little appreciatively I found myself craving something along the same lines—a story with a deep and resounding message Having seen a few comparisons made between A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and A Place for Us in weigh

  3. says:

    This beautiful and haunting novel is one of my favorite books of 2013 It takes place in post war Chechnya but don't be alarmed if you don't know much about the Chechen conflict with Russia — the rich storytelling and the gorgeous prose will draw you in and by the end of the book you could captivate an audience with these wartime stories But first you must meet Havaa a precocious little girl whose father was just take

  4. says:

    I picked this book for my “read an award winner” challenge After reading the blurb I knew this is going to be a sad story but what I didn’t know was that it was going to be this disappointing So many glowing reviews made me think that it was going to be a book that I would going to remember for a very very long time that too in a good wayStory revolves around Akhmed who is taking care of his bedridden wife but has to leave her behind

  5. says:

    As well as being the most cleverly structured novel I’ve read all year A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon also features some of the most memorable characters Ostensibly the novel is set in Chechnya though in many ways the novel depicts a generic modern war and the terrifying lawlessness that prevails in an invaded country I ha

  6. says:

    Anthony Marra’s Chechnya is every bit as bleak and brutal as the post apocalyptic world Cormac McCarthy creates in The Road Life is valued by the governing powers as cheaply as in the Nazi concentration camps The novel isn’t so much about the wars in Chechnya per se as how individuals relate to each other when law and order has been perverted out of all recognition and they only have their own moral compas

  7. says:

    We all know as William Tecumseh Sherman once noted that “War is Hell” Later Jean Paul Sartre concluded that “Hell is other people” It therefore stands to reason that war is other people Good thing for me that it's about others because what Marra described in this book sounded awful We got chopped off fingers burned down houses torture induced ratting and a whole host of other atrocities It was set in Chechnya in 2004 with much of

  8. says:

    Upon starting this book I had heard of Chechnya I couldn't point it out on a map though Or even have told you what part of the world it was in This book takes you there Not just in mindbut in spirit also The author states he chose to write about this area after hearing about the death of journalist Anna Polikovsk

  9. says:

    I loved this portrait of ordinary people doing their extraordinary best under the duress of war in Chechnya Their human spirit shines through like the grass that grows in the cracks of a sidewalk I was inspired with Marra’

  10. says:

    45 Stars “When they took him he held your name right there in his chest and you were with him even if you didn't know it When he reached the end he did not die He called your name and began to live in you” ’A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ is Anthony Marra’s debut novel If you’ve read this then you’ll understand how unfathoma

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