The Moving Word

Writer, Preacher, Bookworm, Student of the Word

Review of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


As an avid reader of history and literature, I increasingly combine them by turning to international fiction. I’ve lived in the United States all of my life. So why not learn about other cultures?

One day I can stroll the parched lands of Africa and the next, be whisked off  to the snowy streets of Norway. Without leaving my favorite reading spot, I can wander all over the world learning new cultures. It’s like being an amateur anthropologist without leaving the couch.

By perusing international fiction, the world becomes smaller and my perspectives on the world enlarge. Thanks to the success of fiction from Sweden, for one, we are truly blessed by a flood of strong writers from all over the planet. It would certainly be tragic to have never had the glorious opportunity to read such brilliant writers as Khaled Hosseini.

NOTE: I received this book free in lieu of a review.

Anthony Marra provided my last offering. His book, The Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a brutal, unflinching look at a war-torn, post-Soviet Chechnya. We who live in relative luxury cannot imagine the hardships people face in so many parts of the world. We throw out more food in a day than most people in the world have in a week.

From Marra’s website:

Anthony Marra’s exquisite debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is about the transcendent power of love in wartime. When Hogarth published the book in hardcover in May 2013, it became an instant New York Times bestseller—and later won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, and was longlisted for the National Book Award.

His penetrating prose digs deep within a war ravaged country and the damaged people who suffer from starvation, sleeplessness and traumas of every kind.  No one knows what depravities await them every day. One child says that she has never met an overweight person before. That is behind the imagination of the western world.

Almost everyone in the story is missing part of themselves from the amputees to the emotionally ruined. Much of the novel revolves around a hospital staff trying desperately to heal and serve the sick and wounded without any supplies or assistance of any kind.

Despite the horrors, love, kindness, innocence and mercy spring forth like weeds in a sidewalk. The resilient human spirit finds a way to shine through. Here we find very human people doing what they can to survive things most of us cannot imagine.

Needless to say, if we want nice, gentle reading, this is not the right book. War without rules kills, maims and destroys.



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