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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
by Scott Stambach


Overview -

The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. 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.  Read more...


 
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More About The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach
 
 
 
Overview

The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. 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.

Until Polina arrives.

She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.

She is exquisite. 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.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781250081865
  • ISBN-10: 1250081866
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publish Date: August 2016
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-05-16
  • Reviewer: Staff

Stambach’s impressive, well-structured debut is set at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko has lived there all his life. Due to the Chernobyl disaster just before his birth, Ivan has no legs, one arm, a hand with a thumb and two fingers, and a droopy face that makes it difficult to speak or smile. Unlike many of his fellow patients, Ivan is self-aware and stubborn, as he describes in one of his amusing short lists: “There are two things I’ve learned... (A) I can eventually... learn to do just about anything with only one arm... and (B) if there is a God, then I should thank Him for my thumb, since it is the only thing that makes (A) possible.” Ivan’s clever, bleak observations about life at the hospital—an underfunded post-Soviet hell mitigated only by the inexhaustible kindness of the maternal nurse Natalya Beneshenko—make up the book’s first half. In the second, he narrates his love affair with Polina Pushkin, a recently orphaned 16-year-old dying of leukemia. Through their romance built on mischief, Russian literature, and a need for recognition, Ivan begins to grapple with his fears and take responsibility for his future. Stambach’s surprising, empathetic novel takes on heavy themes of illness, suffering, religion, patience, and purpose, with a balanced mix of humor and heart. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Aug.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Six stellar summer debuts

Have you discovered your favorite new author of 2016 yet? If not, we have a few ideas. Though these novels cover a range of settings and genres, they each feature a distinctive new voice readers will want to hear more from.

Nicole Dennis-Benn
HERE COMES THE SUN

For fans of: Edwidge Danticat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Rohinton Mistry.

First line: “The long hours Margot works at the hotel are never documented.”

About the book: Three generations of Jamaican women struggle with love, family and finances in this beautifully complex novel.

About the author: Jamaican-born writer Nicole Dennis-Benn lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York, where she teaches writing.

Read it for: A hard-hitting, realistic portrayal of those who live year-round in paradise. 


Krys Lee
HOW I BECAME A NORTH KOREAN

For fans of: Adam Johnson, Chang-rae Lee, Yiyun Li.

First line: “Home still begins as an image for me.”

About the book: The lives of a Chinese-American genius, a wealthy North Korean student and a desperate defector collide in a Chinese border town. 

About the author: Krys Lee teaches creative writing in South Korea; her story collection, Drifting House, was published to much acclaim in 2012.

Read it for: A masterful portrayal of the personal side of world politics and Lee’s understanding of the complexities of immigrant life.


Scott Stambach
THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF IVAN ISAENKO

For fans of: Coming-of-age tales with remarkable young narrators, such as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

First line: “Dear Reader, whom I do not know, who may never be, I write not for you but for me.”

About the book: Confined to a children’s hospital in Belarus for all of his 17 years, spunky Ivan Isaenko is determined to transcend his severe physical deformities. His world brightens with the arrival of Polina, an orphaned girl with leukemia.

About the author: Scott Stambach teaches high school and college math and physics in San Diego.

Read it for: An unforgettable lead character and Stambach’s powerful writing, which captures the small acts of kindness and the incidental tragedies that are part of institutional life.


Heather Young
THE LOST GIRLS

For fans of: Jennifer McMahon, Kate Morton, Laura McHugh.

First line: “I found this notebook in the desk yesterday.”

About the book: Sixty years after the disappearance of her younger sister, Lucy Evans bequeaths the family’s Minnesota lake house to her grandniece, Justine—along with a notebook that recounts some devastating family secrets.

About the author: Heather Young practiced law for a decade and raised two kids before turning to fiction. She has an MFA from Bennington College Writing Seminars.

Read it for: The feeling of sinking into the complications of generational skeletons, like a plunge to the bottom of a cold lake.  


Forrest Leo
THE GENTLEMAN

For fans of: Wilde, Wodehouse, “The Addams Family” and Northanger Abbey.

First line: “My name is Lionel Savage, I am twenty-two years old, I am a poet, and I do not love my wife.”

About the book: A 19th-century London poet blows his fortune on books and must marry for money. When he strikes up a conversation with the Devil at a society soirée, Lionel (accidentally?) sells his new wife—and her soul. Hijinks ensue as Lionel and a band of misfits set off on a half-baked rescue mission. 

About the author: A playwright and NYU graduate, Forrest Leo was raised on an actual Alaskan homestead and has practiced dogsledding, carpentry and photography. 

Read it for: Monty Python-esque levels of absurdity, endlessly entertaining footnotes, period--appropriate illustrations, swashbuckling adventure and romance. 


Adam O'Fallon Price
THE GRAND TOUR

For fans of: Fredrik Backman and Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys.

First line: “Sir?”

About the book: Richard Lazar is reluctantly embarking on an alcohol-fueled book tour for his dark horse hit memoir about the Vietnam War. When Richard meets a hopelessly eager fan named Vance, the author surprises himself by letting Vance tag along. 

About the author: A former musician and screenwriter, Adam O’Fallon Price grew up in California, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. He currently lives in Iowa with his wife and cat.

Read it for: The oddly tender friendship that develops between the gruff author and the awkward Vance. 

 

This article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Nicole Dennis-Benn photo: Jason Berger
Krys Lee photo: Matt Douma
Forrest Leo photo: Abigail Sparrow

 
BAM Customer Reviews