July 2, 2014 by Reader's Connection
If you last visited Calvin’s 3 or 4 years ago, you need to be told: THE BUILDING PICTURED BELOW IS NO LONGER THE RIGHT ONE.
This used to be Calvin’s, but is now a South of Chicago Pizza and Beef. It’s probably a wonderful place, but no book discussion.
In April 2012, Calvin moved to more spacious quarters a block down the street, at 647 Virginia Avenue. Be looking for a window that looks like the one below, minus the greybeard specter.
The specter is not the ghost of Calvin Fletcher. It is I, your blogger, smiling because I’m jazzed up on decaf and a chocolate croissant, but also because the fellow whom I ambushed to take my picture has misunderstood what I’ve said about the book discussion. He thinks I wrote the novel. Oh, buddy, in my dreams.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is set in Chechnya, where two wars occur in the course of the novel, and where the eventual “peace” doesn’t deserve the name.
Sonja is a doctor who has left “a decent life in London” and returned to Chechnya in search of her younger sister Natasha. Natasha shows up and works for a while at Sonja’s nearly unstaffed hospital; but then she disappears again. Despite the fact that the sisters never got along, Sonja is possessed by the desire to know where Natasha has gone. “What had happened to her sister? When she died, this one need, so near to eternal it could be her soul, would survive her.”
Sonja’s life is further complicated by Akhmed, a stranger who shows up with a little girl called Havaa, whose father has been taken away by Russian soldiers. Akhmed claims that Havaa is also wanted by “the Feds,” and insists that Sonja should take the girl in.
The novel jumps around in time and involves a guns-and-heroin smuggler, an informer for the Feds, the author of an unpublishable history of Chechnya, and characters who linger with me even though they inhabit only a couple of pages. The book was an incredibly fast read for me, and that’s why I’m saying It’s not too late.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is also available as a downloadable e-book, but when I looked, yesterday, there were 15 requests and only 5 e-copies. Both copies of the downloadable audiobook version were checked out, and there was a request. So (word to the wise, here) your best bet for reading the book before July 9th is an old-fashioned paper copy.
And don’t forget: Other events around town are coming up in our Adult Summer Reading Program.