A Constellation of Vital Phenomena follows Havaa, an eight-year-old living in a rural village in Chechnya. Havaa watches her father be "disappeared" by those in power at the time. Her neighbor, Akhmed, smuggles her into a hospital where she is placed in the care of an unfeeling surgeon.
Anthony Marra's writing bounces from year to year and perspective to perspective. He manages to tell one large, cohesive story while incorporating the small personal tales of many characters. Marra holds no punches. He describes torture in detail but probably even more forceful are his descriptions of the emotional toll that senseless war takes on the average person.
The decision to read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena should not be entered into lightly. This book is intellectual, heavy, and real. Marra incorporates pages and pages of history into the storyline. Much of it went over my head, but I appreciate the insight it granted me.
There's a reason this book received awards. I give it five stars out of five.