The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

33602110By: Scott Stambach
Location: FIC STA
Genre: Russia, love, disabilities, teenagers- all merged into one.

“So that, logically, in the brief time allotted to us, we should be as kind to one another as is humanly possible and face the harsh facts of reality without fear or flinching.”

In The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stambach presents a hilarious, heart-wrenching, and powerful debut novel about an orphaned boy who finds love and hope in a Russian hospital.

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.  

“There are many themes in Ivan’s story as there are pages. It is at once a love story, a revelation of the dark legacy of the Soviet experiment, a conversation on medical ethics, a reproach of religious hypocrisy, and an admonition against choosing fear over purpose. But, ultimately, it is simply the story of a single human life, within which so much can be held. We hope the reader can pause to appreciate that fact.” —James C. Begley, 2014


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