Friday, December 13, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I was a little worried for a while reading this book, the seemingly overly precious title (which when explained in the book is a pretty effective metaphor), the heavy leaning on past masters such as Heller and Marquez (despite the interplay of the text with Tolstoy I didn’t see much of him in these pages), the really awkward POV switches where we suddenly get the future story of an incidental character, and the whole baggage of an outsider writing on a conflict that he wasn’t personally connected to. These concerns disappeared as I read the book though, the unbearable tragedy, humanity, sadness, and brutality of this novel were impossible to deny whatever rickety framework the author presented it in, and thankfully delivered with enough humor and wonder to ease the sourness and bleakness. The ending may attempt a bit of crowd pleasing note and tries to pull off as happy as an ending as possible, but for a debut novel this a very impressive work, a work that shines light on the dead and departed of a totally ignored conflict, a witnessing that alone makes this book worthwhile. This book is filled with humanity and humor but be warned it contain horrifying scenes of torture and general bleakness of a cruel war so this is not one for the fainthearted, but is beautiful enough to deserve reading.

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