A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Novel

Marra, Anthony

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
In a rural village in December 2004 Chechnya, a failed doctor Akhmed harbors the traumatized 8-year-old daughter of a father abducted by Russian forces and treats a series of wounded rebels and refugees while exploring the shared past that binds him to the child.

Publisher: New York : Hogarth, c2013.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 0770436404
Characteristics: 384 p. ;,25 cm.
Additional Contributors: Anisfield-Wolf Collection


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Mar 19, 2015

some pretty gruesome torture scenes but ended up liking it.

Oct 10, 2014
  • ktom17 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I love historical fiction, and I loved this book. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming, and paints an interesting picture of a slice of life in wartime Chechnya. The back-and-forth between 1994 and 2004 is easy to follow and flows nicely. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical fiction.

Oct 10, 2014
  • mclarjh rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Neither the story nor the characters interested me. The writing is overwrought, too many flourishes. And I wasn't convinced the author has any insight (much less first-hand experience) into Chechnya. I wish beginning authors would start with less ambitious novels (read "shorter") and so not tax their potential readers.

Oct 07, 2014
  • gendeg rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The praise heaped on Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena has been astonishing. So I was surprised when I finished this book and didn't feel the same urge to sing its praises.

The writing is beautiful in places no doubt, but it's beautiful in that deliberate way you often see in MFA-styled writing. I was drawn to the mosaic of stories and characters here but to me these bright slices never really cohered into anything that had shape or meaning. This novel should have vibrated with gritty life, and it didn't. It felt forced, running the old theme of "man’s inhumanity to man" to the ground. The writing style is free-floating at times and the point of view bobs from one character to another. The effect is disconcerting, which would have been fine, but then it is often coupled with dialogue that felt unnatural, forced. Another review wrote that the banter sounded like it could be from an absurdist play, and I agree. Overall, I think Marra was just trying way too hard to convey the dislocated, fractured sense of being of its characters, and so the story rang false.

Sep 13, 2014
  • geezr_rdr rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

A real struggle to get through as a 2 week e-book, although there were some interesting passages. No idea why this war torn area is different from any other, or the characters are more real or empathetic. I say pass on this one.

May 06, 2014
  • som rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This novel had great reviews and I too wanted to like it. But something was missing. Maybe it had too much action. A literary novel should feel wise.

May 04, 2014

An absolutely amazing novel. Anthony Marra captures the essence of a diverse array of characters from conflicted sisters to incompetent surgeons to orphans of war, and they all feel completely real.

Mar 29, 2014
  • lpodell rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Couldn't read much- too depressing

Mar 25, 2014
  • rosenyny rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Very moving story with gut wrenching description and observations of trying to survive in a war torn country. The interconnections of the characters is so well crafted and the imagery of the writing is incredibly well done. One of the best written books I've read.

Jan 09, 2014
  • SPL_Laura rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

When I read the last page of this book I took a deep breath and hugged it to my chest. I was saying goodbye to characters I had grown close to, a drama of such spirit and love and endurance and pain that I felt lost in another world. I highly recommend this read, even if you're not typically interested in historical novels there is a much deeper story going on between these pages, it is a read for everyone.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

Dec 10, 2013
  • sabricent rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

sabricent thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at MCDL