Friday, August 15, 2014

Blogging for Books: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

I continue to LOVE my experience as a book blogger; I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. Let's get started!

Here's my copy; I think it has a nice cover, don't you?

     I won't lie; this was not my favorite book. Have you ever seen a book that had a gazillion positive reviews and then you were excited to read it? But then when you read it, you couldn't figure out why everyone loved it so much? This is one of those books. I'm not saying it was terrible, because it wasn't. The writing was very just didn't keep my attention. I really struggled to get through it and that's saying something because I will read anything. Cereal boxes. Sports magazines, even, in a pinch. And while this book was way better than reading football stats, it's not likely to end up on my all time favorite books in the world list.

     It's possible that my own ignorance on the subject led to my lackluster response. The book is set in Chechnya and opens with a young girl named Havaa hiding in the woods when soldiers come to her father's house and kill him, searching for her to do the same as well but fortunately they do not find her. Now this beginning was poignant and drew me in; I felt like I was in for a great read for the first several chapters.

     Her neighbor finds her hiding in the woods with nothing but a blue suitcase. He decides to take her to a nearby hospital, run by one doctor, a woman named Sonja, and a smart alecky nurse. The doctor deals with her own demons, which become more alive to her when Havaa shows up in her hospital. The neighbor who brought her there, Akhmed, turns out to be a medical student, albeit a poor one, who offers his services to the doctor provided she agree to take in the girl. There are a few side stories and subplots between these two adult characters, which are nice and add to the story. But, that being said, here's where the story lost me somewhat.

     The author tells a rich story but also infuses a great deal of history into the book. I love historical novels, but there is a bit of overkill in this story. Maybe it's just that I prefer ancient history to more modern history. Maybe it's just that I didn't understand all of the details, of which there were many threads to follow. Whatever the case, this well-written story could have used less historical detail to support its characters. The interplay between these characters is what makes the story great; the overabundance of historical detail did not support these relationships but detracted from them, in my opinion.

     I would welcome a discussion about this book; maybe someone has other insights that would have made it more enjoyable for me. Have you read it? Do you have any comments to add?

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