A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

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9780099575573: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. For tough-minded doctor Sonja Rabina, it's just another day of trying to keep her bombed-out, abandoned hospital going. When Akhmed arrives with Havaa, asking Sonja for shelter, she has no idea who the pair are. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja's world will shift on its axis, revealing the intricate pattern of connections that binds these three unlikely companions together and unexpectedly decides their fate. "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular". (Ann Patchett).

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Review:

Q&A with Anthony Marra

Q. Where did you study in Russia? How did that pique your interest?

A. As a junior in college I studied in St. Petersburg. War journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya had recently been assassinated; wounded veterans of the Chechen Wars trawled the metro cars for alms; street gangs routinely attacked people from the Northern Caucasus. Yet as an American I knew little about Chechnya. As soon as I began researching its incredible history, I never looked back.

Q. The setting of your book takes place during the Chechen Wars. Why did you choose this period of history as the backdrop of your novel?

A. Chechnya is a corner of the world largely mysterious to most Americans, yet it’s a remarkable place populated with remarkable people who have become accustomed to repeatedly rebuilding their lives. To quote Tobias Wolff, “We are made to persist…that’s how we find out who we are.” These characters commit acts of courage, betrayal, and forgiveness as they persist in saving what means most to them—be it their families, their honor, or themselves—from the destruction of war.

Q. The title of the book has a story. Can you please explain its meaning?

A. One day I looked up the definition of life in a medical dictionary and found a surprisingly poetic entry: “A constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.” As biological life is structured as a constellation of six phenomena, the narrative life of this novel is structured as a constellation of six point-of-view characters.

Q. Your writing style is unique in that you move back and forth between the present and the past. Was that a conscious choice?

A. Very much so. I wanted to write a novel expansive enough to cover the decade of the two Chechen Wars without losing the drama and suspense inherent in a more tightly coiled plot. By weaving the five-day story of a hunted girl through a larger backdrop, I hoped to combine the tension of a character-driven thriller with the richness of a historical epic. Also, moving through time shines a light on the seemingly trivial moments, relationships, and allegiances that affect characters in profound ways years down the line.

Q. What has had the greatest influence on your writing?

A. My mom has six siblings and my dad has four sisters and between them all there are more cousins than I count, which means that family events have always been filled with voices, stories, and laughter. From an early age I learned from them that stories are how we understand one another, how we preserve the past, and how we make meaning from the chaos of our lives.

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2013: In A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra takes us to snow-covered Chechnya during the Second Chechen War. The novel, a remarkable decade-spanning debut, opens with eight-year-old Havaa looking on as her father is dragged off by Russian soldiers for a crime he did not commit. The soldiers set fire to Havaa's home, and next-door neighbor Akhmed attempts to hide her at nearby hospital. Sonya, the doctor who runs the facility, is hesitant to harbor Havaa, as the child invites unnecessary risk to her barely functioning hospital, but both she and Akhmed realize that Havaa represents something greater than a single life: she is the key to maintaining humanity in an ethnic conflict that is absurd and unjust. "There are things a person shouldn't understand," Akhmed says. "There are things a person has a moral duty never to understand." But by the end of Vital Phenomena, we do understand--with deeply emotional characters and gripping depiction of wartorn Chechnya, Marra makes us understand. -- Kevin Nguyen

About the Author:

Anthony Marra was born in Washington, D.C. During his university years he spent a summer working as a night porter and doorman at a five-star hotel in Edinburgh, and from there moved eastward, studying first in Prague and then in St. Petersburg. He was one of the first foreign tourists to visit the post-war republic of Chechnya, and was interviewed on three Chechen television programmes as a result. He has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In October 2012, he received the Whiting Writers' Award, presented annually to emerging writers of exceptional talent, whose previous recipients include Jonathan Franzen, Tony Kushner, David Foster Wallace, Jeffrey Eugenides and Michael Cunningham.

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 198 x 129 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. For tough-minded doctor Sonja Rabina, it s just another day of trying to keep her bombed-out, abandoned hospital going. When Akhmed arrives with Havaa, asking Sonja for shelter, she has no idea who the pair are. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja s world will shift on its axis, revealing the intricate pattern of connections that binds these three unlikely companions together and unexpectedly decides their fate. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular . (Ann Patchett). Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099575573

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 198 x 129 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. For tough-minded doctor Sonja Rabina, it s just another day of trying to keep her bombed-out, abandoned hospital going. When Akhmed arrives with Havaa, asking Sonja for shelter, she has no idea who the pair are. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja s world will shift on its axis, revealing the intricate pattern of connections that binds these three unlikely companions together and unexpectedly decides their fate. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular . (Ann Patchett). Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099575573

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Book Description 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 129mm x 198mm x 27mm. Paperback. This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 432 pages. 0.300. Bookseller Inventory # 9780099575573

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Book Description Vintage 2014-02-06, 2014. Book Condition: New. Brand new book, sourced directly from publisher. Dispatch time is 24-48 hours from our warehouse. Book will be sent in robust, secure packaging to ensure it reaches you securely. Bookseller Inventory # NU-GRD-05067550

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Book Description Vintage, 2014. Book Condition: New. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. Num Pages: 432 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 129 x 27. Weight in Grams: 304. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099575573

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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: New. Not Signed; This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Ha. book. Bookseller Inventory # ria9780099575573_rkm

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Book Description Vintage. Book Condition: New. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. Num Pages: 432 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 129 x 27. Weight in Grams: 304. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780099575573

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Book Description Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra, This is longlisted for the National Book Award 2013. In a snow-covered village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers. Their life-long friend and neighbour, Akhmed, has also been watching, and when he finds Havaa he knows of only one person who might be able to help. For tough-minded doctor Sonja Rabina, it's just another day of trying to keep her bombed-out, abandoned hospital going. When Akhmed arrives with Havaa, asking Sonja for shelter, she has no idea who the pair are. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja's world will shift on its axis, revealing the intricate pattern of connections that binds these three unlikely companions together and unexpectedly decides their fate. "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is simply spectacular". (Ann Patchett). Bookseller Inventory # B9780099575573

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