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July 26, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


A review by Spencer

by Anthony Marra


Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation. ~A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I’m rarely stumped for words, but this book leaves me practically speechless. I’ll do my best, but I forewarn you, I didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand, or didn’t care about three quarters of this book.

What initially piqued my interest in this story was the setting of Chechnya, and the mentioning of little eight-year-old Havaa hiding in the woods at night as Russian soldiers snatched her father and set her home ablaze. After this initial scene my interest quickly waned.

It’s easier to mention what I liked about this book, otherwise, this review would be rather lengthy.

·      I like the story has a unique setting (Chechnya.)
·      I like little Havaa’s straightforwardness, and the mystery that centers on her blue suitcase of souvenirs.
·      I like that I completed the book, resisting the urge to stop reading after nearly every chapter.
Just to touch on a few of the many things I didn’t like was the omniscient POV, how Havaa nearly disappeared throughout much of the story, the nonlinear timeline, constant head-hopping of characters, lengthy sentences and paragraphs, cursing, the constant depressing images of rapes, killings, tortures, drug use, prostitution, and the sarcasm, hatred, and negativity. I realize this takes place during wartime, but I’d like to have had a break, however small, from the depressing and pessimistic outlook from every single character. The darkness was overkill, and despite the tragedies, I failed to sympathize with most of the characters.

I tolerated the second half of this book better than the first, but that’s not saying much.

I feel the need to purge my body of the dirty, nasty, reprehensible mental images I ingested. Harsh, but true.

I did not enjoy this read. I did not enjoy the author’s writing style. I did enjoy putting this book in my donation bag. I’m certain somebody out there will appreciate the author’s vision and hard work.

Publisher: Hogarth
Page count: 418
Purchase link: Amazon

Book Rating:

On the same page?
Uhh...yeah. 


Disclosure of Material Connection in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Blogging for Books has provided me a copy of this book in exchange for a review.


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