A Constellation of Vital Phenomenonby Anthony Marra

This is the story of an unlikely group of people thrown together by war.  When Dokka is disappeared for the second time his friend Akhmed fears he will not return from the Landfill (which is as horrible as it sounds).  Haava, Dokka’s eight-year-old daughter, escapes when her father is taken away and Akhmed takes it upon himself to care for her.  Akhmed takes Haava to the safest place he can think of – the local hospital.  There they meet the head of surgery, Sonja, a woman who is one of only two employees in the entire hospital.  Akhmed becomes the third employee, having graduated in the bottom tenth of his medical school class he is still better than nothing.  This unlikely trio bands together and discovers friendship, or something like it, despite the circumstances.

The writing style was unique and very appealing: literary and chatty at the same time.  I found myself re-reading sentences that were beautiful, odd or thought provoking.  And the plotting was masterful.  So many instances that seem almost trivial keep looping back again and again and make the trivial of the utmost importance.

This is the first book I have read that was set in Chechnya.  While I have heard of the conflicts in the region and how brutal the war affected civilians, I never really knew the reasons behind the war.  After reading this book, I’m still not quite sure why the war was being fought.  Just like the people in this book, I was more focused on the survival of individuals then in the reasons behind what seems to me (and seemed to them to a large part as well) a long-lasting, life-changing event to live through as best they could.