Marialyce's Reviews > A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
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it was amazing
bookshelves: library, traveling-sisters

5 ever so tragically poignant stars
My reviews can be found here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

“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. Akhmed, Khassan, Ramzan, Dokka, Sonja, Natasha, Havaa, these are all the main characters of Mr Marra's powerful novel. They, in their lives, their words, and their actions show us the brutality of what they suffered under the ruinous Russian rule. They become real to us, like family members that we ache to touch, to help, knowing that they live in a war torn country and knowing all our need to be with them can never be.

The multidimensional nature of all the characters shed light on a conflict that regrettably so, I knew little of. The novel spans ten years, telling the story of three families who were neighbors in Eldar, as well as two sisters who lived in Volchansk. As the story starts, we meet Dokka and his daughter, Haava. Dokka is being taken to the Landfill and his neighbor Akhmed, a somewhat failed medical student almost doctor, takes Haava to safety to Volchansk where he encounters Sonja, the only surgeon to whom he makes his case to allow both he and Haava a sanctuary for Haava, a mere eight year old, will become the next to die if not protected. Sonja acquiesces knowing that she needs help, any help, even it it comes in the form of a semi doctor who graduated in the bottom of his class. Sonja herself is searching, searching for her sister, Natasha, gone missing for two years.

Haava has a suitcase that contains souvenirs of a sort that she has collected from people who have passed through her home on their way to finding a better life if such is to be had. Within that suitcase lies a key to Natasha, but that key is not revealed until the novel's conclusion.

There are other sad poignant characters we meet like Khassan and his informant son, Ramzen, who were neighbors of Akmed. Khassan does everything he thinks he needs to do in order to save his father's life, including much needed insulin. Father and son are at odds with one another and have not spoken in months and it is through Ramzen and his actions that the story that Mr Marra tells is set in motion.

This was not an easy story to read. There were so many levels of understanding, so many multi directional paths that were taken that one needed full concentration of the task of reading a novel that was so well constructed it made the reader an integral part of the story. The scenes depicted were brutal and raw, the lives that were lost were beyond tragic, the story so interwoven that it demanded one's constant attention. “We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.” Truly in this novel, Mr Marra does indeed show us exactly who we are.

Thank you to my local library and the Traveling Sisters Reading Group here on goodreads who read this brilliant novel with me.
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Reading Progress

May 13, 2017 – Shelved
May 13, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
July 3, 2018 – Started Reading
July 3, 2018 –
page 131
34.11%
July 5, 2018 –
page 383
99.74% "I am finished but need time to think about this amazing story."
July 17, 2018 – Shelved as: library
July 17, 2018 – Shelved as: traveling-sisters
July 17, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

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message 1: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Wonderful review Marialyce!


Sera Beautiful, Marialyce. I loved this book, too.


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Beautiful review Marialyce! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. I hope to pick it back up one day when I can fully concentrate on it


message 5: by KAS (new)

KAS Lovely review, Marialyce!! Glad you loved ;) xox


Angela M Wonderful review, Marialyce!


message 7: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Amazing review Marialyce! This sounds incredible!! I've added it and cannot wait to read it!


Marialyce Thanks once again all my super book friends.

Mackey, I hope you enjoy this book when you get a chance to read it. You, too, Lindsay!


Cheri Fantastic review, Marialyce! I only got around to reading this one this year, myself. I completely agree that this wasn't an easy read, but it was so worth it!


Antoinette Terrific review, Marialyce. I, too, thought this book was phenomenal. He is such a tremendous writer.


message 11: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Terrific review Marialyce😄


Marialyce Cheri wrote: "Fantastic review, Marialyce! I only got around to reading this one this year, myself. I completely agree that this wasn't an easy read, but it was so worth it!"

It was so worth it, Cheri and I am super pleased you loved it as well.


Marialyce Antoinette wrote: "Terrific review, Marialyce. I, too, thought this book was phenomenal. He is such a tremendous writer."

I am also so happy, Antoinette, that you loved this book as well.

Maureen, As always thanks for your comment.


message 14: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy Terrific review, Marialyce! Another that has been languishing on my shelves. I need to hop to it


JanB Beautifully said Marialyce. I'm so glad we read this book together. Can I just link to your review when I finally get around to writing one? lol. Seriously, I feel inadequate and I'm not sure I can do justice to this book.


Melissa What a lovely review, Marialyce! A sincere THANK YOU for making this a worthwhile experience. While the story wasn't a new favorite for me, the discussion we all shared and everyone's differing perspectives really made me appreciate the storyline for what it was. Looking forward to our next one. 😊


Diane Very nice review, Marialyce. It did have many layers and it was a challenge in many parts; yet such an extraordinary book and worthwhile read. I loved it as well.


Marialyce Jan, Melissa, and Diane, many thanks for your wonderful comments.


message 19: by Holly (new)

Holly  B So glad to see this one was a 5 star!


Connie G Good review, Marialyce. This was an especially good book.


Marialyce Thanks so much Holly and Connie!


message 22: by Ellie (last edited Jul 28, 2018 06:27AM) (new) - added it

Ellie Tremendous review, Marialyce. I have to read this one! I read The Tsar of Love and Techno which I found brilliant and difficult. He is an amazing and important writer. You reminded me of how much I wanted to read this and your review made clear why.

Immediately after reading your review, I went to Amazon to buy this one. The Kindle version is only $4.99! (so of course I bought it immediately. Thank you.).


Marialyce Thanks so much, Ellie! I do so hope you like this book.


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Fantastic review, Marialyce! This sounds like it was a meaningful read for you. I definitely need to look into it.


Marialyce Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Fantastic review, Marialyce! This sounds like it was a meaningful read for you. I definitely need to look into it."

Thanks so much, Jennifer. I think you will find much to admire in this book.


message 26: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen So glad you loved this too!! It was an amazing story. Great review, Marialyce


Marialyce Jen wrote: "So glad you loved this too!! It was an amazing story. Great review, Marialyce"

Thanks so much, Jen. Glad to see you loved it as well.


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