NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE'S JOHN LEONARD AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • New York • Chicago Tribune • Kansas City Star • GQ • NPR • Christian Science Monitor • Cleveland Plain Dealer
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. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa 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.
For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. 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.
Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content from the author.
Praise for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“Here, in fresh, graceful prose, is a profound story that dares to be as tender as it is ghastly, a story about desperate lives in a remote land that will quickly seem impossibly close and important. . . . I haven’t been so overwhelmed by a novel in years. At the risk of raising your expectations too high, I have to say you simply must read this book.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Extraordinary . . . a 21st century War and Peace . . . Marra seems to derive his astral calm in the face of catastrophe directly from Tolstoy.”—Madison Smartt Bell, New York Times Book Review
“Ambitious and intellectually restless . . . [Marra is] a lover not a fighter, a prose writer who resembles the Joseph Heller of Catch-22 and the Jonathan Safran Foer of Everything Is Illuminated.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
Marra's sobering, complex debut intertwines the stories of a handful of characters at the end of the second war in bleak, apocalyptic Chechnya. Though the novel spans 11 years, the story traces five days in 2004 following the arrest of Dokka, a villager from the small Muslim village of Eldar. His eight-year-old daughter escapes, and is rescued by Dokka's friend Akhmed, the village doctor, who entrusts her to the care of Sonja, the lone remaining doctor at a nearby hospital. Why Akhmed feels responsible for Haava and chooses Sonja, an ethnic Russian keeping a vigil for her missing sister, as her guardian is one of many secrets; years of Soviet rule and the chaos of war have left these people unaccustomed to honesty. Marra, a Stegner Fellow, writes dense prose full of elegant detail about the physical and emotional destruction of occupation and war. Marra's deliberate withholding of narrative detail makes the characters opaque, until all is revealed, in a surprisingly hopeful way, but there's pleasure in reconstructing the meaning in reverse. As Akhmed says to Sonja, "The whole book is working toward the last page."
Very interesting book, really makes you think.
Can’t recommend this enough
I loved this book and the people I’ve gotten to read it have really, really liked it.
This is absolutley my favorite book. It is beautifull written and I could not put it down when I was reading it. Not only is the story phenomenal but the style of writing is unique and genius. Loved this and I recommend it to everyone