NOVEL APPROACH: Love and war

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First Posted: 5/28/2013

This is a colossal world, but every once in a while, we experience something truly brilliant – magnetism. In times of great adversity, it is often that same mysterious force that brings strangers together, uniting them in a shared road ahead. The road is far from easy, but together they have enough heart to rule the world.

In “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” author Anthony Marra gives readers a poignant work of such force. The characters we meet are complex, and regardless of their flaws, we are drawn to them, falling into the pages of their lives.

The novel opens in Chechnya during a time where struggle seems ever apparent. But, even considering the dismal nature of the events that transpire, the work attempts to demonstrate that even in the worst of circumstances, hope and love can be the greatest of strengths. As readers meet the characters, we see how each of them deals with their own struggles, making the work deeply layered.

While the work begins in 2004, it often transports readers back to the past, in 1994. Fortunately, Marra gives readers a timeline with each chapter to keep the intricacy of the work above water.

In the beginning, readers are introduced to Chechen eight-year-old, Havaa, who has just witnessed Russian soldiers abduct her father following charges of aiding Chechen rebels. Havaa is not the only one watching the ordeal. A family friend and neighbor, Akhmed, watches from his home, believing the entire family to be in danger. Before long, Havaa’s home is set on fire. Akhmed waits for the soldiers to flee and soon finds Havaa nearly frozen in the woods.

“Akhmed hadn’t prepared for this. He couldn’t imagine why the Feds would want Dokka, much less the girl. She stood no taller than his stomach and weighed no more than a basket of firewood, but to Akhmed she seemed an immense and overwhelming creature whom he was destined to fail.”

Instead of turning a blind eye, Akhmed decides to rescue Havaa and seek refuge in an abandoned hospital nearby. There, they meet Sonja, the only doctor who has selflessly stayed behind in order to assist the injured. Initially, Sonja feels burdened by two additional refugees, but over a short period of time, she finds an aspect of herself that went missing in a world of darkness – love.

“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is a striking work that will transform the way readers perceive struggle. Ultimately, Marra teaches us that the roads we travel may vary, but in order to overcome adversity, we must always move forward.

‘A Constellation of Vital Phenomena’ by Anthony Marra Rating: W W W W W