A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

byAnthony Marra

Paperback | May 7, 2013

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LONGLISTED 2015  – International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

A novel of unflinching honesty, gutting humanity, haunting detail, and beautiful, raw hope dangling like a bare bright light in a basement. 

A haunting novel set in a nearly abandoned hospital in war-torn Chechnya that is both intimate and ambitious in scope. Eight-year-old Havaa, Akhmed, the neighbour who rescues her after her father's disappearance, and Sonia, the doctor who shelters her over 5 dramatic days in December 2004, must all reach back into their pasts to unravel the intricate mystery of coincidence, betrayal and forgiveness which unexpectedly binds them and decides their fate.
In his bold debut, Anthony Marra proves that sometimes fiction can tell us the truth of the world far better, and far more powerfully, than any news story. You will not forget the world he creates--A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and its characters will haunt you long after you turn the final page.
Anthony Marra is the recipient of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Narrative Prize, and his work has been anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Stegner Fellow, he now teaches at Stanford University. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, his first novel, will be ...
Title:A Constellation of Vital PhenomenaFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:400 pages, 9.2 × 6.28 × 1.02 inShipping dimensions:9.2 × 6.28 × 1.02 inPublished:May 7, 2013Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307362620

ISBN - 13:9780307362629


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fine and worth the read for the background info, but a bit disappointing. This book was meant to be touching, but I never found myself invested in any of the characters. I learned a bit about the brutality in Chechnya - the writing was well-executed - but I found the characters rather flat which is unfortunate given the rest of the novel.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A worthwhile ending The beginning of the story captures you right away, just as the above description tells you, an 8 year old girl is, who sees her father captured, is found and protected by her neighbour... I found beyond that until close to the end a somewhat difficult read - keeping me interested and darkness to the story unfolding. But the ending makes it worth it. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Beautiful story Admittedly the book did not have me hooked in the first half, but as the story evolved and it became clear how intertwined the lives of these characters were it turned into a beautiful story about fate, love, and life. Ended emotionally - a beautiful story.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hearfelt and amazing! The first part of the book admittedly did not have me hooked. But as the story goes on and the lives of these characters become more interwoven it became a true masterpiece - a story of fate that pulled at the heartstrings! Would highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Started as a four. Ended absolutely as a five! Being replete with spoilers, there's not a great deal to say about the story. Other than the sheer elegance of its construction, the raw beauty of its sentiment, and the emotional sucker punches of its endings. Anthony Marra channels the spirit of Russian literature: the miseries of history and fate, the glory of the individual, the love-hate bonds of family. All wrapped up in an understated little novel that affirms your doubts about humanity before turning around to crush those doubts with the infinite bounds of human goodness. Just like the imaginary lines that connect the dots of the constellations, life is fragile and ambiguous and Marra's book is the perfect study of life's constellation of vital phenomena. For while the dots of our lives may seemingly always be falling apart, they are actually rendered indissoluble by invisibly powerful forces around us.
Date published: 2014-12-08

Editorial Reviews

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLERFINALIST 2013 – Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel PrizeLONGLISTED 2013 – National Book AwardWINNER 2013 – NBCC John Leonard PrizeFINALIST 2014 – Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers AwardWINNER 2014 – ABA Indies Choice Award for Book of the Year—Adult Debut“The book encompasses torture, infidelity, heartbreak and human trafficking, but also love, friendship, family and humour. Marra doesn’t gloss over the horrors of the Chechen wars. But he doesn’t dwell either, and despite the subject matter, this is not an exclusively dark book. In his afterword, Marra acknowledges a debt to Michael Ondaatje. Like Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, Vital Phenomena is about the gaps left behind by the forcibly disappeared. It’s a difficult subject for fiction, but one Marra manages with a voice that approaches something like the gauzy beauty of Ondaatje’s prose.” —Maclean’s “The simplest life cannot precisely be put down in details or marks on a page—the spirit fundamentally escapes language, if only because we can’t pronounce the words. Nonetheless, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena proves that if anything, it’s better, more beautiful and necessary to keep trying.” —Emily M. Keeler, The Globe and Mail  “Some good novels catch fire immediately, as if a writer had simply opened a Zippo lighter. Others come into being more gradually. The author cautiously tends to his or her kindling. Anthony Marra’s first novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, belongs to the second category. It’s a slow burn….  The strange and invigorating thing about Mr. Marra’s novel…is how much human warmth and comedy he smuggles, like samizdat, into his busy story. At heart he’s a satirist, 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. Mr. Marra’s humor floats most freely in his dialogue, which is both acidic and surreal. If novel writing does not work out for him, he might easily become a world-class playwright…. Mr. Marra is a lovely writer about families…. He is, in fact, a lovely writer about many things…. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is ambitious and intellectually restless. It’s humane and absurd, and rarely out of touch with the Joseph-Heller-like notion that, as Mr. Marra puts it, ‘stupidity was the single abiding law of the universe.’” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review  “A complex debut.... [Marra writes] with elegant details about the physical and emotional destruction of occupation and war.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)