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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko: A Novel…
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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko: A Novel

by Scott Stambach

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1842297,071 (4.04)17

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Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko has been a resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus for his entire life. He resides there because he is an orphan whose body is deformed. The hospital is home to many children who have suffered from the effects of nuclear fallout and thus suffer from deformities and a plethora of other conditions.

Nurse Natalya is Ivan's only friend and confidant and so he lives in his own little world until the day that Polina arrives. She has lost both of her parents and is suffering from leukemia. She forces Ivan to look at his life differently and soon they develop a very special relationship.

This story will evoke all sorts of emotions including the sadness for all of the children who suffered from the nuclear fallout and the joyous feeling that Ivan and Polina were able to share each other for a short part of their lives. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Gritty, raw story about life at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. A darker more adult version of The Fault in our Stars. Beautifully written and heartbreaking but with an undertone of hope.

Received as an ARC. ( )
  KatelynSBolds | Nov 12, 2018 |
Lots of good stuff going on here. Engaging characters and plot. Funny, sad, romantic. ( )
  CSKteach | Jul 20, 2018 |
This book might be the first time I've ever wished for a more granular rating scale than half-stars. This book is probably more than 3.5 but less than 4.0, at least according to my own personal rating scale (it's up there at the top of the tread, for reference). It's very well-written, it's poignant, it's harrowing and sad, it's darkly funny, it has as close to a happy ending as a book about children living with the deformities inflicted on them by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster could have. But I don't think it ever quite touched that spot inside me that makes me sorry to see a book end.

On the other hand, it has renewed my desire to read a good nonfiction book about the aftereffects of Chernobyl, so there's that. ( )
  rosalita | Oct 4, 2017 |
Usually, when I read a book or watch a movie, I can let go of reality and go with the plot. I have a son who is studying Aeronautical Engineering and every we watch a sci-fi movie, he'll laugh and make fun of how the plot is violating some sacrosanct Newton's Law. I'm not that way. I'm happy to believe anything and get caught up with the story and the characters. But not with this book.

Actually, I enjoyed the writing and I was ok through maybe half of the story. I found Ivan's stream of consciousness to be witty, even though very, very cruel. But there were certain elements of the plot that were so off-base, it made me angry. [If you've been with someone who has died of cancer, you realize that it is not at all like how it is depicted in the movies, but this book takes it an even further extreme. Oral sex and then a few days later you drop dead? Maybe if I hadn't lived through a friend dying in my house of cancer just a few years ago, I wouldn't be so annoyed with Polina's fairy tale death. It's weeks of physical agony for the patient and mental torture for everyone else. Once my consciousness realized that this plot was unrealistic, I began to feel like the whole book was manipulative and I just became more and more annoyed. Sort of like how Dorothy must have felt once she knew the wizard was a fraud. If a major part of this book relies on the death of a leukemia patient then the author should have done more research on cancer deaths. I really struggled to finish this book. (hide spoiler)] Ok. End of rant. ( )
  jmoncton | Jan 8, 2017 |
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For my mother, whose name is beautiful in every language
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Dear Reader, whom I do not know, who may never be, I write not for you but for me.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is comic and staggeringly tragic, often both in a single sentence ... A grittier, Eastern European, more grown-up The Fault in Our Stars."--Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born deformed, yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, strong intellect, and a voracious appetite for books, Ivan is forced to interact with the world through the vivid prism of his mind. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement. That is until a new resident named Polina arrives at the hospital. At first, Ivan resents Polina. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. She is exquisite. But soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live. "Ivan Isaenko is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and hilarious novel whose closest literary relative might be One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ... will appeal to any reader with a beating heart - a true gem." --Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs "--"Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born severely deformed, yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, strong intellect, and a voracious appetite for books, Ivan is forced to interact with the world through the vivid prism of his mind. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan. That is until the seventeen-year-old Polina arrives at the hospital. At first, Ivan resents Polina. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. But eventually, he is drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. And now Ivan wants something, whereas before he survived by being utterly detached from things and people: Ivan wants Polina to live. Hilarious and full of heart, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is a story about finding hope within the most desperate of circumstances, and it is one that readers won't soon forget"--… (more)

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