A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra has won numerous awards, including the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, the Washington Post Top Ten Books of the Year, and the 2013 Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction. High Praise, indeed!
I have to admit that I initially had difficulty reading the book. It is an ongoing reading challenge for me to read books that take place in other countries with characters that have unfamiliar names to me. I have to make myself read those books. Thus, it took me quite awhile to take on this book since it first came out.
The story takes place in Chechnya, and begins in 2004 when eight year old Havaa woke up in her neighbors' home after the Russians had taken her father away and burned her home the night before. The neighbor, Akhmed had found Havaa hiding in the woods with her suitcase that night. Akhmed took Havaa to a hospital that had been abandoned and was being used to treat people by the lone doctor there, Sonja Rabina. Sonja had no interest in getting involved with the care of the young girl.
The story is told in such a way that the past histories of the characters end up interweaving with each other in the present. It's a beautiful book.
"Life: a constellation of vital phenomena-organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation."