Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova
Helpless, Akhmed watches as his friend Dokka is taken by the Feds, bound for the “Landfill” from where few people return. As the Feds leave and Dokka’s house burns down to the ground, Akhmed finds Haava, Dokka’s eight-year-old daughter, hiding in the woods. For some unimaginable reason, Haava is wanted by the Feds and Akhmed knows that she is not safe in the village. Tracking around the checkpoints, Akhmed leads Havaa to an abandoned hospital where the only remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, continues to treat anyone who walks through the door.
Akhmed, a doctor himself, volunteers his services in exchange for shelter for Haava, and desperate for help, Sonja grudgingly agrees. What ensues are emotioned-filled five days that link together these three and other equally important characters against the backdrop of the Chechen Wars.
Anthony Marra is a wonderful storyteller and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is truly a literary delight. Whether it was the proud and selfless Sonja, always searching for her missing sister, Natasha; or Ramzan, a man ignored by his father and turned informer to avoid further torture – the characters’ histories slowly wove together, each uncovering a part of each other’s past. Marra’s writing gave me access to a topic – war-torn Chechnya – that I previously knew nothing about and gifted me with characters I instantly came to care about. Thankfully, the prologues was full of recommended reading that assisted Marra in crafting his book and I know I will be going back to his list over and over again.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Hogarth. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.