A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown Publishing
Publication Date: May 2013
Categories: Literary, Chechnya
In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

My Thoughts:

What I knew about Chechnya could have fit inside of a teacup. “Oh yea, that place where there’s been a lot of trouble. It’s in Russia, right?” I have a much better grasp of the events there after reading this book. Marra explains the past of this country in an accessible and moving way.

The story here isn’t as much about politics and wars as it is about what happens to the people and their relationships because of such hardships. Marra focuses on the humans caught in these events. How do they continue to carve out a life in a war-torn country? How do they survive the fear? What sacrifices will they make to continue to feel like humans at all? 

This is an incredible story about a young girl and the man who decides to take care of her when she is left alone in the world. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is powerful, emotional, and incredibly compelling. 
This novel is not to be missed. You’ll be thinking of it long after you’ve read the last page.

Stegner Fellow, Iowa MFA, and winner of The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, ANTHONY MARRA has won the Pushcart Prize, the Narrative Prize, and a scholarship to Bread Loaf. He is also the recipient of the 2012 Whiting Writers’ Award. He has studied, resided, and traveled throughout Eastern Europe. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is his first novel.

To visit the rest of the stops on this tour please visit TLC Book Tours.

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours I’m able to offer up a copy of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena to one very lucky winner! Please enter below:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

50 thoughts on “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

  1. I haven't given this one much attention, I admit it. I keep seeing it pop up and I keep not really grasping what it's about. But I put on my big girl hat this morning and read your review, and I'm kind of fascinated by the fact that it gave you some insight and background on Chechnya. I am also one of the clueless.I just finished reading two graphic novels by Gene Yang and they gave me such beautiful, multifaceted background on The Boxer Rebellion…a time/event I was totes ignorant of. Cheers to the books that teach us stuff!


  2. Oh I'm so excited to start this now. I'm going to make sure I finish my current book today so I can read this one on the weekend!


  3. See, that's another bit of history that I'd love to learn more about! I might have to look into those graphic novels for the next read-a-thon. That's the very best part of reading if you ask me 🙂 I do hope you read this one Andi, I know you won't be disappointed!


  4. I just heard Michael & Anne from Books on the Nightstand talk about this book on their last podcast and requested it from my library (where there are a bunch of people a head of me already!).


  5. I liked this one, too — reading it after the Boston marathon bombings was intense — eye-opening and disturbing. Another win for Hogarth for sure.


  6. I'm so interested in books set in this area, and I know a thing or two of what happened in Chechnya, so even more so. In case your giveaway is open for international readers, I'm in too. 🙂


  7. I've heard a lot about this recently. Mostly a lot of good, very interesting things. I love a good bit of history! Thanks for the chance 🙂


  8. I had no idea what this book was about until I started reading all the positive reviews about it. I'd love to win a copy, oh and \”howdy\” again 🙂


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