- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 8 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: May 7, 2013
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00CLX9JT2
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top customer reviews
Anthony Marra's debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, is such a book for me. Reviews have hailed it as everything from "brilliant" and "haunting" to "a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles."
One day, in a snowy village in war-torn Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa hides as Russian soldiers abduct her father, Dokka, in the middle of the night. Their kindly neighbor, Akhmed, fears the worst when he sees the soldiers setting fire to Dokka's house as they take him away, but he rescues Havaa from her hiding place. Fearing she will be discovered, Akhmed takes Havaa to the local hospital, abandoned but for one doctor, Sonja, who alone (with the help of one cantankerous nurse) has been treating all of the victims of war and illness that enter the dilapidated hospital's doors. Akhmed, who was a medical student at the very bottom of his class, promises to work as a doctor with Sonja to ensure Havaa is provided for.
Sonja comes with her own set of issues, most notably her sister, Natasha, who has continuously disappeared and reappeared in Sonja's life, but has been missing for some time. And Akhmed is caring for his own bedridden wife, and worrying about his neighbor and childhood friend, who is an informant for the Russians. But Sonja and Akhmed forge a reluctant partnership, one which opens both of their eyes to the surprising connections that tie them together.
For me, while there's no doubt that Marra is a tremendously talented writer who has created some memorable characters and some beautiful sentences, this book just didn't click the way I hoped it would. It's a very dense story--in order to give gravity to his narrative, Marra packs a great deal of Chechen history and details that seemed to run on for far too long. The book takes place over a 10-year-period, and switches perspectives frequently and abruptly. And although he weaves all of his storylines together at the end, before that point I wondered why he spent so much time dwelling on certain details about secondary characters.
I'm not usually an outlier in this fashion; I usually like books more than others. So if the story and people's reviews make this book sound like one you think you'd love, have at it. And then perhaps we can discuss what I'm missing.
The story takes place in a part of the world, Chechnya, that the vast majority of individuals would have trouble finding on a map and excepting the rare coverage by the BBC, the NYT, WSJ or the New Yorker, much of the underlying conflict between Russia and the Chechnyan republic barely garners a mention in the media. However, Marra takes a big subject and creates an intimate window into this part of the world and the conflict that has enveloped it. While never having been to Chechnya, Marra, paints a vivid and moving picture of the scarred area and its people through the intimate story of a set of an interconnected characters. Most prominent are Havaa, the young girl whose father is taken by Russian soldiers from his house before they burn it. Fortunately, Havaa flees before they can locate her and is found wandering by her neighbor Akhmed. Akhmed brings her to what was a hospital and is now a shell of a building being run by the lone doctor, Sonja, treating wounded victims of the 1st and 2nd Chechnyan wars.
Without revealing much more, this is a must read. It is a book large in scale and scope but made intimate through an indelible set of characters and a searing portrait of the hell of war, even if it is one most of us are too far removed to have any personal connection. This is a brilliant novel and a must read of 2013.
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A shame that the year was very difficult to read on the kindle even if you enlarged the print to...Read more