A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Last night I finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, a 2013 novel by Anthony Marra.  Our book club chose this as our next read and we will be getting together next month to discuss it.  It was a lot better than our last pick, Fates and Furies, which no one in the group liked at all.

The book is set in Chechnya between 1994 and 2004 and follows several different characters as they react to the Chechen wars and fight for survival.  Despite not knowing very much about the conflict in that part of the world, it was easy to root for the book’s characters, especially Sonja, a surgeon in a remote hospital, Havaa, an eight year-old whose family has not survived, and Akhmed, Havaa’s neighbor whose goal is to protect her.

The book bounces between time periods and fleshes out the backstory, giving the reader more insight into the characters.  Sonja’s relationship with her sister Natasha is especially moving, as Sonja searches for what happened to Natasha and the revelations of Natasha’s past drug use.  Overall, it was a good choice for our book club and I am looking forward to our meeting next month!

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