Author(s): Anthony Marra
In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. For tough-minded doctor Sonja Rabina, it's just another day of trying to keep her bombed-out, abandoned hospital going. When Akhmed arrives with Havaa, asking Sonja for shelter, she has no idea who the pair are and even less desire to take on yet more responsibilities and risk. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja's world will shift on its axis, revealing the intricate pattern of connections that binds these three unlikely companions together and unexpectedly decides their fate. "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular". (Ann Patchett).
When everything else seems lost, watch out for the unexpected ties that bind us together...
"A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular. Not since Everything is Illuminated have I read a first novel so ambitious and fully realized. If this is where Anthony Marra begins his career, I can't imagine how far he will go" Ann Patchett "Powerful, convincing, beautifully realized -- it's hard to believe that A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a first novel. Anthony Marra is a writer to watch and savor" TC Boyle "Remarkable and breathtaking, Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a spellbinding elegy for an overlooked land engulfed by an oft forgotten war. Set in the all-too-real Chechen conflict, Marra conjures fragile and heartfelt characters whose fates interrogate the very underpinnings of love and sacrifice" Adam Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan Master's Son "Anthony Marra's fine debut novel reaches tenderly, unflinchingly, into the center of the Chechnyan conflict of the late 1990s. This tale has its roots in shocking brutality, and its beauty in the human redemption that can come from unaccountable human kindness. Whimsies of circumstance, fate, and the ties of family and faith serve to guide the reader and the characters through a richly layered and deeply beautiful journey" Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster's Wager "It's hard to think of an American writer who has so convincingly transported readers into the lives of characters as geopolitically distant as the cast of Chechens whose stories Anthony Marra braids together in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Mr. Marra gives us no anchorage in a familiar point-of-view. Instead, he gives us the natives of a peripheral Chechen village, and makes us imagine the world that is their village so convincingly that we forget how remote it is. The novel is a wondrous machine of many moving parts, all whirring together like clockwork, gracefully guiding us backward and forward in time, events unfolding in an order that feels inevitable. His ambitions are Tolstoyan, and he brings stylistic virtuosity to the prose, giving us lyric passages saturated with intelligence and psychological insight. By the end of the novel, we love the characters and grieve with them, and rejoice with the "immense, spinning joy" that is the novel's final note." Whiting Writers' Awards, Selection Committee
Anthony Marra was born in Washington, D.C. During his university years he spent a summer working as a night porter and doorman at a five-star hotel in Edinburgh, and from there moved eastward, studying first in Prague and then in St. Petersburg. He was one of the first foreign tourists to visit the post-war republic of Chechnya, and was interviewed on three Chechen television programmes as a result. He has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In October 2012, he received the Whiting Writers' Award, presented annually to emerging writers of exceptional talent, whose previous recipients include Jonathan Franzen, Tony Kushner, David Foster Wallace, Jeffery Eugenidies and Michael Cunningham.