A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
NEW this week…
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra
3 of 5 stars
After Havaa’s father is abducted by Russian soldiers for aiding the Chechen rebels, a family friend brings her to Sonja, a tough-minded surgeon with her own connection to the war.
He had always tried to treat Havaa as a child and she always went along with it, as though childhood and innocence were fantastical creatures that had died long ago, resurrected only in games of make believe.
Wow, who needs dystopian speculative fiction when not even a decade ago, such things were happening in our own world? Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the Chechen Republic (formerly part of the USSR) were subject to two brutal wars when Russia tried to take back the area. This book takes place throughout those years, and really opened my eyes to a very recent conflict to which I was previously unaware.
Marra has a very descriptive writing style, with wonderful prose, and I liked how the plot wove the characters together, connecting them with one another through their past and present.
This is not, however, a book for the faint-hearted. It includes detailed descriptions of violence, torture, amputation, human trafficking, and castration. These elements made it rather difficult to read. Also, there are a lot of characters, and while they’re all very unique, I still had difficulties remember who was related to whom or how they were connected, particularly early on in the novel. And while the point of view jumps around, so does the timeline. Though we follow Havaa’s story in order, these sections are surrounded by chapters that do not go in chronological order, which added to my early-on confusion about who was who.
Overall: An intense novel that gives a glimpse into the brutality of the Chechen Wars.
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Friday, May 10th: Luxury Reading
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