Save Big On Open-Box & Used Products: Buy "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” from Amazon Open-Box & Used and save 74% off the $26.00 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all offers from Amazon Open-Box & Used.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $4.69 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 7, 2013
|New from||Used from|
Rare Books by Legendary Authors
Discover collectible books by legendary authors on AbeBooks, an Amazon Company. Learn More on AbeBooks.com.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Special offers and product promotions
Q&A with Anthony Marra
Q. Where did you study in Russia? How did that pique your interest?
A. As a junior in college I studied in St. Petersburg. War journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya had recently been assassinated; wounded veterans of the Chechen Wars trawled the metro cars for alms; street gangs routinely attacked people from the Northern Caucasus. Yet as an American I knew little about Chechnya. As soon as I began researching its incredible history, I never looked back.
Q. The setting of your book takes place during the Chechen Wars. Why did you choose this period of history as the backdrop of your novel?
A. Chechnya is a corner of the world largely mysterious to most Americans, yet it’s a remarkable place populated with remarkable people who have become accustomed to repeatedly rebuilding their lives. To quote Tobias Wolff, “We are made to persist…that’s how we find out who we are.” These characters commit acts of courage, betrayal, and forgiveness as they persist in saving what means most to them—be it their families, their honor, or themselves—from the destruction of war.
Q. The title of the book has a story. Can you please explain its meaning?
A. One day I looked up the definition of life in a medical dictionary and found a surprisingly poetic entry: “A constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” As biological life is structured as a constellation of six phenomena, the narrative life of this novel is structured as a constellation of six point-of-view characters.
Q. Your writing style is unique in that you move back and forth between the present and the past. Was that a conscious choice?
A. Very much so. I wanted to write a novel expansive enough to cover the decade of the two Chechen Wars without losing the drama and suspense inherent in a more tightly coiled plot. By weaving the five-day story of a hunted girl through a larger backdrop, I hoped to combine the tension of a character-driven thriller with the richness of a historical epic. Also, moving through time shines a light on the seemingly trivial moments, relationships, and allegiances that affect characters in profound ways years down the line.
Q. What has had the greatest influence on your writing?
A. My mom has six siblings and my dad has four sisters and between them all there are more cousins than I count, which means that family events have always been filled with voices, stories, and laughter. From an early age I learned from them that stories are how we understand one another, how we preserve the past, and how we make meaning from the chaos of our lives.
*Starred Review* In this extraordinary first novel, Marra homes in on a people and a region that barely register with most Americans and, in heartrending prose, makes us feel their every misfortune. In rural Chechnya, during the second war, a small group of people struggle to survive in the bleakest of circumstances. A gifted surgeon works tirelessly in a crumbling hospital, hardening her heart so that she can perform her gruesome work. An eight-year-old girl who has already seen too much is being hunted by the government ever since the night her father was abducted by Russian soldiers. An incompetent doctor who longed to be an artist paints portraits of 41 neighbors who were killed by government forces and hangs them in the doorways and trees of his ruined village. And a lonely man, once brutally tortured, turns government informant to obtain the insulin needed by his diabetic father, who, in turn, refuses to speak to him. Marra collapses time, sliding between 1996 and 2004 while also detailing events in a future yet to arrive, giving his searing novel an eerie, prophetic aura. All of the characters are closely tied together in ways that Marra takes his time revealing, even as he beautifully renders the way we long to connect and the lengths we will go to endure. --Joanne Wilkinson
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
"In 1956, three years after Stalin's death, the Chechen ethnicity was rehabilitated by the pen stroke of a distant bureaucrat. On the evening of the day the first trains arrived to transport them home, Khassan followed the pale stone road to the pale stone cemetery, carrying with him a spade and the brown suitcase his parents had last packed twelve years earlier. The earth was hard and dry, and it took several hours to reach them. His mother's index finger pointed at him through the dirt. The burial shroud had replaced their skin. They were lighter than he had expected, their muscles hard in desiccation. He folded their arms, pulled on their legs until the tendons snapped; he was as reverent as possible. He packed them tenderly within the discolored suitcase lining. Their bones lay bowed and prostrate. He performed no ablutions, and the brown of earth and decay had rusted his hands, but God wold forgive him these lesser blasphemies. They had given him as good a life as they could. He wished he could have given them a better death. He decided then, that he would write a history of his parents, of his people, of this sliver of humanity the world seemed determined to forget. Standing in the mounded dirt the spade was a slender tombstone. He wasn't alone. Hundreds of others had come to raise and return their dead, and the dust reddened the night."
Who should read this book:
- Someone looking for a well-written novel, not a quick beach read
- Someone who is not taken aback but graphic, violent descriptions
- Someone looking for an incredible novel and the opportunity to learn about lifestyles in other parts of the world
I read this for my creative writing course. I truly loved this book. I was so enthralled with even the middle section where most authors lack original material to move the story along, Marra kept the book fluid. The title is perfect, the imagery is picturesque, and the ending will have you in tears. I connected to Natasha's story of being trapped in sex trafficking so heartbreaking and loved that Marra re-invented her purpose by the end of the story. Haava was amazing and I am so glad Marra included her whole life story into Ch. 28. It shattered me. I will read this book again very soon and recommend it to anyone who is looking for quality writing amongst the garbage out there now.
Most recent customer reviews
of the characters through whom the story is told.
Not light summer reading, but worth discussion.