A Russian doctor searching for her missing sister, a man who just barely qualified as a doctor, a young girl whose family is taken away, and other characters of Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena are broken, and justifiably so. One man writes a history of Chechnya only to destroy all thousand pages of it, while a son loses touch with his father because he informs on others to survive. Alternating between the two Chechen civil wars in 1994 and 2004, the stories of these fractured characters take shape. The managing of so many different times and characters is done well, through good writing and also a helpful timeline that appears at the beginning of each chapter with the year in question for the chapter bolded. I would like to think I'm a reader that could have done without that device, but with the large cast of characters, including the Russian doctor's sister who falls in and out of her own misfortunes, it is helpful to keep everything straight. The story is richly layered and connected, and switching between times makes for a more suspenseful and layered telling of these characters' personal histories. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is engrossing and a powerful novel of human interaction in extreme circumstances.