- 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
"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
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
of the characters through whom the story is told.
Not light summer reading, but worth discussion.