A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Last year I discovered a page-a-day calendar for book lovers, and it’s my favorite thing.  I get so excited when I get to rip a page off and see what’s next.  This book by Anthony Marra was one of the pages. 

In war torn Chechnya in the early 2000s, lies a small village.  It’s inhabitants are friends, and they keep each other positive.  One day, the Feds come for Dokka, a man who takes in refugees.  When Dokka is gone, his neighbor and best friend Akhmed goes to find his daughter, Havaa.  Akhmed knows that Dokka is not coming back.  He takes Havaa to the local hospital, in hopes that it will keep her safe. 

Sonja, the hospital’s only doctor, wants nothing to do with either of them.  She agrees to take Havaa in, in exchange for Akhmed’s medical experience.  He is a licensed doctor, although possibly the worst one in Chechnya. 

Since her disappearance years ago, Sonja has been searching for her sister Natasha.  She asks everyone she encounters if they have seen her, or if they know her whereabouts.  She has learned nothing.

The unlikely trio grows closer, and they find out that they know more about each other than they think. 

The story takes place over a five day period, and a lot happens in that time frame.  There are also flashbacks to previous years, and through those we learn more about Natasha and Dokka, and the other characters in Akhmed’s village. 

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending.  It’s happy in a lot of ways, and sad in others.  The story as a whole was well-written and intriguing.  I appreciate the way Anthony Marra brought everything together in the end.

It’s a tale of love, loss, and hope.  Because what is life, but a Constellation of Vital Phenomena?


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