A Constellation of vital Phenomena: A Review


A story of transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena  is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance. Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together.” 


This was a great novel to read. Every time I opened the book it felt as if I was transported to another country. Anthony Marra really brought a foreign land to life! He had the perfect way of painting a picture of the scenery with just his words. 

I absolutely loved the way Marra described everything in this book. When describing people it was nice not to read the usual basic descriptions of: “tall, thin, heavy..etc.” Instead Marra used a unique way of describing his characters for instance when describing one man he said “… this man so thin she could have pushed against his stomach and felt his spine.” When he describes people its like it takes on a sense of fantasy and yet makes it seem realistic. For example one description of a woman read: ” At the end of the hall, through the partially opened waiting room door, she saw the hemline of a black dress, the gray of once white tennis shoes, and a green hijab that, rather than covering the long black hair, held the broken arm of a young woman who was made of bird bones and calcium deficiency, who believed this to be her twenty second broken bone, when in fact it was merely her twenty first.” 

Another thing that I loved was the dialog. The dialog in  this novel was very natural and was written so well that it even gave minor characters a chance to have a powering personality and back story. The dialog just seemed to flow right off of the page. Which leads me to the other thing that I loved about the book and that was Marra characterization.

Marra gave to book great characters. I particularly loved the protagonist Sonja. She was a very witty strong doctor. constantly reminding me of Christina Yang from Greys Anatomy. 

I also enjoyed the way the author transitioned into flashbacks throughout the book. I hate it when scenes bluntly switch over from past to present with not even a warning.


One thing that absolutely drove me crazy was the medical jargin packed throughout this book. There was paragraphs and paragraphs of  medical jargin that were clustered in the book that would constantly lose my interest. I can understand how someone in the medical field would find it interesting but for others it just seems like mumbo jumbo. 

At times the book seemed like a history textbook which made parts a little uninteresting. Parts seemed to ramble on so much that i had to skip a couple of pages because it became too irritating. Some small parts even seemed unnecessary and useless.  

Lastly I wished the author had been more clear on the ages of the characters. It was confusing at times to determine the age and timeline of some of the characters. 

Favorite Quotes 

She knew the bodies she opened, fixed, and closed more intimately than their spouses or parents did, and that intimacy came as near to creations as the breath of God’s first word.”

” She wouldnt climb out of bed for her sister, but she climbed into a crater. She wouldnt cross a room, but sh crossed a continent.”

After twelve love affairs over the course of her seventy- three years, each beginning with a grander gesture, each ending with a more spectacular heartache, Deshi had learned to distrust men of every size and age, from newborns to great grandfathers, knowing they all had it in them to break a decent woman’s heart.” 

” Happiness came in moments of unpredictable loneliness.”

” No one can take whats inside your head once its there.” 

” My phantom hand is slapping you in the face.” 

Favorite Excerpt

” Last month he told me that George Bush had been reelected,” Sonja said.

“Who’s that?”

” The American president,” Sonja said looking away. 

” I thought Ronald McDonald was president.”

” You can’t be serious.” There it was again, condescension thick enough to spread with a butter knife. His mother was the only other woman to have spoken to him like that, and only when he was a child and only when he wouldn’t eat his cucumbers.

” Wasn’t it Ronald McDonald who told Gorbachev to tear down the wall?”

” You’re thinking of Ronald Reagan.”

” English names all sound the same.”

” That was fifteen years ago.”

” So? Brezhnev was General Secretary for eighteen years.”

” It doenst work like that over there,” she explained. ” They have elections every few years. If the president doesn’t win, someone else becomes president.”

” That’s ridiculous.” The wind lifted the ash from his cigarette and scattered it across the empty parking lot. 

” And you can only be president for ten years,” she added. 

” And then what? You become prime minister for a bit and then run for president again?”

” I think you just step down.”

” You mean Ronald just stepped down after ten years?” he asked. She had to be putting him on. 

” He just stepped down and George Bush became president.”

” And then George Bush shot Ronald Reagan to prevent him seizing power?”

” No,” she said ” I think they were friends.”

” Friends?” he asked. ” It makes me wonder how we lost the Cold War.” 

” Good point.”

” An do George Bush has been president since Ronald Reagan?”

” There was another guy in there. Clinton.”

” The philanderer. I remember him,” he said, pleased. ” And then George Bush became president again?”

” No, the George Bush who is president now is the first George Bush’s son.”

” Ah, so that’s why they don’t shoot the previous president. They’re all related. Like the Romanovs.”

” Something like that,” she said distractedly.

” Then who is Ronald McDonald?”

“You know Akhmed,: she said, looking to him for the first time in several minutes. ” I’m beginning to like you.” 

” Im not an idiot.”

” You used the word, not me.” 




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