A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Book Acquired Some Time Last Week)


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Publisher Random House’s blurb:

In his brilliant, haunting novel, Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner Anthony Marra transports us to a snow-covered village in Chechnya, where eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night, accusing him of aiding Chechen rebels. Across the road their lifelong neighbor and family friend Akhmed has also been watching, fearing the worst when the soldiers set fire to Havaa’s house. But when he finds her hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.
For the talented, tough-minded Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. And she has a deeply personal reason for caution: harboring these refugees could easily jeopardize the return of her missing sister. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weave together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomenais a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.


Haley Tanner’s Vaclav & Lena Is A Modern Day Fairy Tale (With Lots of Lists)

I like fairy tales, stories with happy endings. As the mother of two little ones, I also like stories about children. Which may be why  I liked Haley Tanner’s Vaclav & Lena as much as I did. I was actually surprised at just how much I liked it. Vaclav & Lena is a modern-day fairy tale, with all the right amounts of good and bad, kindness and evil. And there’s even a little magic, too.

Tanner’s writing is simple, witty and charming, not unlike the main character, Vaclav.  Her characters are real and believable, even as they are simultaneously too good to be true: Vaclav, completely earnest and selfless; Lena, a mystery to everyone, even herself; and Rasia, the adoring and dutiful guardian.

My love and concern for the welfare of the characters, coupled with a heartbreaking story line, made it hard to put this one down each night.  I fell in love with little, shy, neglected Lena and vulnerable, gallant, naïve Vaclav when they were just little kids, and my love only grew stronger when they matured into delicate, hormonal, irrational teenagers. And, as it was for Vaclav, Lena, and Rasia, it will be difficult for me too to forget this inseparable pair.

In keeping with Vaclav’s love of lists, I feel that it is only fitting to include some lists of my own:

List of What Vaclav Would Say this Book is About




The American Dream

The Importance of Lists





List of What Lena Would Say this Book is About








Fairy Tales




List of What Rasia Would Say this Book is About




Raising a Russian boy in America

Raising an American teenage boy in Brooklyn





Vaclav & Lena is new in trade paperback from Random House.