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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel - Anthony Marra

If you're one of those readers who likes to read award-winners, a reader who reads all the books on the Best of... lists at the end of the year, a member of a book club that will likely read this book in the distant future, or just someone who wants to read great fiction before anyone else knows about it, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is the perfect choice.


No words are wasted in Anthony Marra's debut novel about Chechnya. The plot is woven very intricately; every loose strand is tied before the book reaches its conclusion. And what a beautiful tapestry it is. It's lyrical and affecting, intelligent but never boring. The scenery and characters come alive. Marra does a fabulous job of crafting a moving novel without becoming overly sentimental. In short, I cannot praise this book enough.


A Constellation... is the sort of book that will likely fill a significant place on your bookshelf, but leave a hole in your understanding of the world. It will likely send you to Wikipedia or your local library, searching for information regarding Chechnya. Do yourself a favor, do the research and get the book now, before everyone else has. That way, come September, when one of your co-workers says “Oh my god, you should so read this book about Chechnya,” you can stick your nose in the error, correct your co-workers mispronunciation, and tell her all about it.