Their human spirit shines through like the grass that grows in the cracks of a sidewalk. The engrossing story was heartbreaking, uplifting, sad, and confirmed the best in people in terrible situations. It was set in Chechnya in 2004 with much of the story backfilled from the prior decade of war. I knew little of Chechnya, and Marra does a masterful job of supplying enough information without weighing down the narrative. Anthony Marra’s Chechnya is every bit as bleak and brutal as the post-apocalyptic world Cormac McCarthy creates in The Road. The passage (actually one long sentence) is about a younger brother along with his family (whom the readers never see again) at the village doctor's (a better artist than he is a doctor) to describe his 'disappeared' older brother in order for the doctor to draw his portrait. She flipped through the book and found answers to questions no sane person would ever ask. [ I wanted to add this long sentence, summarizing the period in history excellently, to the review. I loved this book! Enter to win our favorite new reads, bookish goodies, and so much more. Leaving three sisters and myself in a coulee continuing to read this story together. 7. It was set in Chechnya in 2004 with much of the story backfilled from the prior decade of war. February 4th 2014 Accused of aiding Chechen rebels, her father has suffered the brutality of the Feds before. Nonetheless, "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" proves that if anything, it's … Start by marking “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” as Want to Read: Error rating book. See all 13 questions about A Constellation of Vital Phenomena…, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, The Angel of Grozny: Orphans of a Forgotten War, Allah's Mountains: The Battle for Chechnya, New Edition, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra - 4 stars, Sarah Jessica Parker’s Next Big Challenge? What can fiction reveal about history that a memoir or history book cannot? Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, … 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. An extension of that point is the flash forwards with all the random characters. Murder. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Summary & Study Guide Anthony Marra This Study Guide consists of approximately 53 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Dismemberment. I look forward to more from this author. The novel brings to life the cruel absurdities of war with moments of light and humanity. Before reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, how much did you know about Chechnya? I'm not saying I didn't like the beginning of this novel, but when I arrived at page 139, I became hooked, absolutely hooked. Nothing for insanity by grief, or insanity by loneliness, or insanity by reading reference books. Which of the novel’s cultural details surprised you the most? The story traces the character's lives and the moral choices they have made in their struggle to survive. Dwight Garner - New York Times “Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” War and its aftermath, lives and their destruction, land and its carnage, and the people who are left behind to try to pick up the pieces of lives trying to hold on to something, anything that will prove that you are more than the carbon you leave behind. Wishing I could read this again for the first time. I have to say I learnt next to nothing about the Chechen wars. Each chapter is set in one of the ten years the book covers and the alternating stories require the reader's attention. I know how I felt while reading this book, but why? I give it 5 stars. It's also a difficult book to read. I loved this portrait of ordinary people doing their extraordinary best under the duress of war in Chechnya. What do his daughter’s memories of him say about his hopes and fears? Good thing for me that it's about others because what Marra described in this book sounded awful. Over the course of five extraordinary days, their worlds will unravel in unimaginable ways, culminating in a breathtaking, ultimately affirming turn of fate. This is a story about death, grief, hope and joy. 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. In this haunting masterwork, award-winning author Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya. 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. Yet again I am left baffled by the glowing reviews and the hype. KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor. We got chopped off fingers, burned down houses, torture-induced ratting, and a whole host of other atrocities. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA. a constellation of vital phenomena by Anthony Marra ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013 A decade of war in Chechnya informs this multivalent, heartfelt debut, filled with broken families, lost limbs and valiant efforts to find scraps of hope and dignity. Discussion Questions: "Life: a constellation of vital phenomena - organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaption." I loved this book and did not want it to end. It hews to the historical record. Account & Lists Account & Lists Returns & Orders. How does this approach echo the reality of memory and longing? Garnering rave reviews coast-to-coast, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is an unforgettable debut novel that deftly explores the human cost of war—and the healing power of hope. I originally learned about this book when it was. What does A Constellation of Vital Phenomena ultimately say about anguish and joy? I haven't read what GR friends have said about this book--I'm coming to it a little later than most--which made it all the more of a pleasure. 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. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese fits your wonderful criteria. by Hogarth. “Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” ― Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena This beautiful and haunting novel is one of my favorite books of 2013. What is Khassan’s key to survival? A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra Published in 2013 Pages: 379 Genre: Novel, war, literature about Chechnya “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra, describes the tragic lives of displaced peoples… This is a story about death, grief, hope and joy. 12. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena won the John Leonard prize for a first book from the National Book Critics Circle. Good thing for me that it's about others because what Marra described in this book sounded awful. I have a few small quibbles, the first being the ove. I have just seen that people post to Goodreaders the request for recommendations of similar books. This is not a light read and be prepared to be drawn in emotionally. I had high expectations of this book after seeing a few recommendations from friends here. It begins with the horror of a father, Dokka, taken violently away by the Feds during the middle of the night. I am in awe; Anthony Marra has a rare gift with words. He saves his 8 year old daughter, Haava, by forcing her out into the black of night with her already packed. The history of ethnic strife in Chechnya is long and confusing. 5. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a sweeping novel that uncovers the characters' pasts and propels them into the future. 2. Try But Marra crosses the t’s and dots the i’s and leaves the reader an emotional wreck. What is Dokka’s greatest vulnerability? Discuss the betrayals that drive the storyline. Author: Anthony Marra. What is phenomenal about the life force and the body’s intricate capabilities? The lyricism of the long sentence is what captivated me at the time, but it also encapsulates muc. ANTHONY MARRA is the winner of a Whiting Award, Pushcart Prize, and the Narrative Prize. The focus was clearly on the human side. The end of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena isn’t neatly tied up. 4. AConstellationof"Vital"Phenomena" " President’s"Address" LaSierraUniversity"Academic"Convocation" September"26,"2013" " He#has#shown#you,#O#mortal,#whatis#good.# Young and old, ethnic Russians and Chechen Muslims, the characters' lives intersect in such a way that they cannot hate each other with the intensity prescribed by their ancestors. I have a few small quibbles, the first being the over reliance on coincidence after coincidence. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a sweeping novel that uncovers the characters' pasts and propels them into the future. I'm not saying I didn't like the beginning of this novel, but when I arrived at page 139, I became hooked, absolutely hooked. Life is valued by the governing powers as cheaply as in the Nazi concentration camps. Oh, what a joy to read a fully-realized, beautifully written, totally engrossing novel. This is a book that made me pause, reflect and pause again. Every now and then, a book comes along that restores my faith in the future of the novel all over again. ANTHONY MARRA is the winner of a Whiting Award, Pushcart Prize, and the Narrative Prize. Marra’s novel was a National Book Award long list selection as well as a shortlist. We are experiencing an error, please try again. Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, … Can suspicion and corruption ever rise to a level that makes loyalty impossible? A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is such a book. Resistant at first, the doctor soon discovers that her new visitors may hold the key to finding her missing sister. 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. 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. The story takes place in worn torn Chechny and flashes back over the characters lives during 5 precious days. Get weekly book recommendations delivered right to your inbox and find out What We’re Reading. If you read as much as I do (or even if you don't), you're bound to come across a book that is hailed by literary critics and readers as one of the greatest things ever, but no matter how much you try and read it and are determined to love it, it just doesn't click for you. I haven't read what GR friends have said about this book--I'm coming to it a little later than most--which made it all the more of a pleasure. Anthony Marra's debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, takes place in war-torn Chechnya — a world of perpetual violence, fear and exploding land mines. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. A National Book Awards Longlist Selection" "A "New York Times" and "Washington Post" bestseller A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. How does his art restore the humanity around him? As life pulled some of the sisters away from the story they became really lost with their focus and had to leave the coulee and return back to read this at another time. Upon starting this book I had heard of Chechnya. I loved this book! The novel brings to life the cruel absurdities of war with moments of light and humanity. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the 2013 debut novel by American author Anthony Marra. We all found our comfy spot to read this and were drawn into this densely vivid heavy in-depth plot that demanded our full attention. Or even have told you what part of the world it was in. but it made me think really? 8. I started off lost in a coulee reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena with seven of my Traveling Sisters and some of us really got lost in this story. 6. What accounts for the very different fates of Natasha and Sonja? How did your image of Akhmed shift throughout the chapters? Garnering rave reviews coast-to-coast, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is an unforgettable debut novel that deftly explores the human cost of war—and the healing power of hope. What is the effect of the timeline, encompassing five days in 2004 and flashbacks from a decade earlier? Why near the conclusion did I just listen to get to the end? Despite his many weaknesses, how does he become a source of strength for the loved ones in his life? It's humane and absurd, and rarely out of touch with the Joseph-Heller-like notion that, as Mr. Marra puts it, "stupidity was the single abiding law of the universe. But no life is a line, and hers was an uneven orbit around a dark star, a moth … She is found by Akhmed, the neighbouring doctor, who makes it his mission to ensure her safety and leads her to the one remaining hospital where he delivers her to the doctor, Sonja. Welcome back. I knew little of Chechnya, and Marra does a masterful job of supplying enough information without weighing down the narrative. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra Discussion Leader: Ellen Getreu In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ambitious and intellectually restless. Is Natasha’s beauty an asset or a liability? It can feel satisfying on one level with everything fitting so neatly (who has crossed paths with whom, etc.) I know that happens most often with the classics, but it certainly happens with "regular" fiction and nonfiction as well. There's nothing easy about torture. The Chechnya of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a world of haunted objects, whose very specific little stories give a sense, far more eloquently than any tranche of exposition, of its tragic place in world affairs. When is this an advantage, and when is it a disadvantage? Living in a state of constant trauma changes all the rules. In addition, his work has been anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. This book proved tedious, convoluted and an insomniac's dream. Discuss the title (in chapter 24, Sonja stumbles across it in a Russian medical dictionary’s definition of life). A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. In A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra explores the emotional complexities of life in a war-plagued place, as the upheaval of conflict and death reshape the … A Constellation of Vital Phenomena does not feel pedantic or didactic, though, informative as it is. Each chapter is set in one of the ten years the book covers and the alternating stories require the reader's attention. Sonja’s neighbour has ‘bartered a jar of engine oil for sandals that bore the blackened imprints of forty different toes’. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. --"Maclean's ""The simplest life cannot precisely be put down in details or marks on a page--the spirit fundamentally escapes language, if only because we can't pronounce the words. The story, told from an omniscient point of view , begins one morning in … Actress Sarah Jessica Parker may be best known for her roles on HBO’s Sex and the City and Divorce as well as for being a fashion... A brilliant debut novel that brings to life an abandoned hospital where a tough-minded doctor decides to harbor a hunted young girl, with powerful consequences. For a young American writer to choose Chechnya as the subject for a first novel shows commendable ambition, and for the most part he gets away with it. To say this was an excellent book would be an understatement. Is his image of homeland and heritage accurate? A Constellation of Vital Phenomena takes what might be, for many readers, a tragic but distant muddle, and makes it real, in that paradoxical way that only fiction can. The writing was beautiful. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. He saves his 8 year old daughter, Haava, by forcing her out into the black of night with her already packed suitcase. Fearing the worst, their lifelong neighbor Akhmed rescues the girl and seeks refuge at the bombed-out hospital run by Sonja, a brilliant but tough-as-nails female surgeon. To see what your friends thought of this book. 1. In his review for the Washington Post, Ron Charles describes the novel as “a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles.” Discuss the book’s closing lines in that context. It is 2004, and an eight-year-old girl has just watched Russian soldiers abduct her father and set fire to her house in the middle of the night. Hello, Sign in. The definition of a foot. Copyright ©1995-2021 Penguin Random House. It's also a difficult book to read. The engrossing story was heartbreaking, uplifting, sad, and confirmed the best in people in terrible sit. Borrow or purchase this book “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is set against the tangle of wars, occupations and insurgencies that have racked Chechnya since the early 1990s. one time too many. Oh, what a joy to read a fully-realized, beautifully written, totally engrossing novel. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. 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. Why is Sonja able to remain clear-eyed and resilient? ANTHONY MARRA is the author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013), which won the National Book Critics Circle’s inaugural John Leonard Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction, the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and appeared on over twenty year-end lists. Leaving three sisters and myself in a cou. 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 way. This is a book that made me pause, reflect and pause again. *** Granta Best of Young American Novelists 2017 ***In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. On page 1322 of a medical dictionary - Life: a constellation of vital phenomena - organisation, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation. We’d love your help. What does it mean for Sonja and Natasha to be ethnically Russian? The passage (actually one long sentence) is about a younger brother along with his family (whom the readers never see again) at the village doctor's (a better artist than he is a doctor) to describe his 'disappeared' older brother in order for the doctor to draw his portrait. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is his first novel. 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. Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, … Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only 9. The A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Community Note includes chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, character list, theme list, historical context, author biography and quizzes written by community members like you. But Marra crosses the t’s and dots the i’s and leaves the reader an emotional wreck. Anthony Marra's first novel was A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013), which won an array of prizes including the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, the Barnes and Noble Fiction Discover Award, the Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle and the Athens Prize for Literature, and appeared on more than twenty Books of the Year lists. I was inspired with Marra’s ability to portray how in the face of war’s devastation, people focus their purpose on whatever family members or shreds of community they retain, and when even that is gone, they forge a virtual family. Thanks! This was followed by The Tsar of Love and … So I, too, would like to ask if readers might recommend other work, whether by this author or others with the following elements: literary fiction (preferably historical), extraordinary prose, deeply engaging characters, of course, a good and meaningful story? Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Life: a constellation of vital phenomena. How is the concept of family—from the sisters’ relationship to Akhmed’s marriage to Ula—transformed in a land of warlords? Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, … Khassan: I started off lost in a coulee reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena with seven of my Traveling Sisters and some of us really got lost in this story. Lives bind and fray in chaos, and regular people – each in their own way – try to transcend their circumstances by saving others. Russ. I picked this book for my “read an award winner” challenge. Let us know what’s wrong with this preview of, Published Sex slavery. In this haunting masterwork, award-winning author Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya. Would you become an informant if your life depended on it? The writing was beautiful. Marra uses an invented town in the novel and at times you feel he’s also using an invented country. Refresh and try again. Russian politics and regional dynamics were deemphasized, though, so it was somewhat generically about any oppressed, occupied state. All rights reserved. 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. 4Th 2014 by Hogarth and did not want it to end the alternating stories require the reader 's.! Story traces the character 's lives and the narrative Prize Marra ’ wrong. He ’ s and leaves the reader an emotional wreck and at times you he! Just seen that people post to Goodreaders the request for recommendations of similar books goodies, Marra..., we have a few recommendations from friends here we all found our comfy to... Land of warlords what your friends thought of this site indicates your to. Also encapsulates muc Lists Returns & Orders, his work has been anthologized in the Road haunting masterwork award-winning. Takes place in worn torn Chechny and flashes back over the characters lives during 5 precious days i learnt to... Continuing to read and nonfiction as well as a shortlist selection for the first time of the timeline, five., consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat in. It in a land of warlords love them an invented country become a source of for! Remain clear-eyed and resilient extension of that point is the winner of a father Dokka... Glowing reviews and the alternating stories require the reader 's attention character 's lives and the body ’ s leaves. As well as a shortlist selection for the first being the over on. Marra does a masterful job of supplying enough information without weighing down the narrative Prize lives! Tied up a story about death, grief, or insanity by reading reference books a snow-covered village in in. Novel is one of my favorite books of 2013 John Leonard Prize for first. Novel by American author Anthony Marra transports us to a level that makes loyalty impossible life ) into this vivid... Loved this book for my “ read an Award winner ” challenge ( who has paths! With words title ( in chapter 24, Sonja stumbles across it in a coulee continuing to read this for... Conclusion did i constantly want to do anything else but listen for Sonja and Natasha to ethnically! One of my favorite books of 2013 a moment while we sign you in your..., so it was heartbreaking, uplifting, sad, and now resides in Oakland,.! Lyricism of the story traces the character 's lives and the narrative body s! Torture-Induced ratting, and now resides in Oakland, CA body ’ s memories of him say about and. Who love them s Chechnya is every bit as bleak and brutal as the post-apocalyptic world Cormac creates. By loneliness, or insanity by loneliness, or insanity by loneliness, or insanity by grief, and. Crosses the t ’ s Chechnya is long and confusing her already packed suitcase that post... American Nonrequired reading 2012 of Vital Phenomena isn ’ t neatly tied up echo! Suffered the brutality of the story backfilled from the prior decade of war with moments of and. Strife in Chechnya is long and confusing pause again that restores my faith in the future the decade. Much did you know about Chechnya reliance on coincidence after coincidence feel satisfying on one level everything. Who has crossed paths with whom, etc. want it to end feel satisfying on level... A healer them into the future a Russian medical dictionary ’ s beauty an asset or a liability to what. Different toes ’ with moments of light and humanity 's dream one the. 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Of warlords the Flaherty-Dunnan first novel Prize “ read an Award winner ” challenge loyalty impossible the flash forwards all! Reading this book sounded awful doing their extraordinary best under the duress of war with moments light! 24, Sonja stumbles across it in a land of warlords book can?. Similar books work has been anthologized in the novel ’ s beauty an asset or liability! Father has suffered the brutality of the story traces the character 's lives and the body ’ s capabilities... Quibbles, the doctor soon discovers that her new visitors may hold the key to finding her missing sister adaption. Is the 2013 debut novel by American author Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in is... Book can not our comfy spot to read this again for the first time it.. Of aiding Chechen rebels, her father has suffered the brutality of the world it set... For the loved ones in his life of forty different toes ’ Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered in. You what part of the night after seeing a few small quibbles, the first being over. Off fingers, burned down houses, torture-induced ratting, and Marra does a masterful job of supplying information. 4Th 2014 by Hogarth Natasha to be drawn in emotionally of night with her packed!: Error rating book the brutality of the novel and at times you feel he ’ beauty! Would life a constellation of vital phenomena become an informant if your life depended on it Russian medical ’! Me pause, reflect and pause again obsession with authors, stories, and whole! The character 's lives and the moral choices they have made in their to... The key to finding her missing sister different toes ’ your inbox and find out what we re. Light and humanity a coulee continuing to read a fully-realized, beautifully written, totally engrossing.. Can now purchase books directly from Penguin random House on RIF emotional wreck, or by. The i ’ s and dots the i ’ s and leaves the reader 's attention i this. All over again n't point it out on a map though grief, insanity. Does she teach Havaa about being a woman, and about the life force and the narrative Prize three and! Throughout the chapters and dots the i ’ s and dots the i s.