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"A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" by Anthony Marra

Set in violence-plagued Chechnya ¿ recently the subject of much media attention following the Boston Marathon bombings ¿ this intricate book recounts heartbreaking events: wars, beatings, torture and other trauma. Even while braiding together stories of strife, Marra manages to leaven the intensity with humor. The result is a first novel that no one can really believe is a first novel. Hogarth, 400 pages, $26
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