Book Reviews,  Europe,  FICTION,  FOUR STARS ****,  Prize Winner,  Psychology

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra **** (of 4)

vitalHalf a dozen fully realized characters intertwine as the Russian empire disintegrates in the early 2000s and the Republic of Chechnya is obliterated by two wars.  Each person trying to survive in a small Chechnyan village must make his or her own decisions with respect to survival and morality as nearby buildings are destroyed and friends are disappeared.  Too often those decisions are at odds.  “Do I save myself or protect my neighbors and family?”  In the end, we learn that a person cannot choose his family.  Sometimes family members engage in despicable acts; other times we care and love for those not fully related to us as if they were.  I suppose its interesting that in trying to recount this book, a narrative rich in plot, that it isn’t the action that has stayed with me, but rather issues of morality.  The added benefit is that the deep research incorporated into the book offers a history lesson about a little-known part of the world without ever feeling like a treatise.  I want to learn more about Chechnya.  Do not be put off by the grim subject matter.  Embrace this book for the great novel that it is.