Before I read our May book club selection A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, I never gave Chechnya a second thought. Bad American, I know. Recently war torn country has been mentioned in the news quite often because of the recent tragedy in Boston. I read this book months before recent events.
As someone who only knew of Chechnya as a name on a map, author Marra brought the country’s people to life. Lives of people I never even considered or thought about until I cracked open his novel. Here’s the blurb for the novel:
In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.
For the talented, tough-minded Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. And she has a deeply personal reason for caution: harboring these refugees could easily jeopardize the return of her missing sister. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weave together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.
The novel is not about life in Chechnya, but how strangers bond over challenging times. Join me and From Left to Write members in reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Then come back on May 20th as we discuss the novel.