the next good book

The Invisible Life Of Ivan Isaenko

By Scott Stambach


324 pages

What’s it about? Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko has lived in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children since birth.  The Chernobyl disaster has left him physically deformed, but he has a razor sharp mind and a dark sense of humor.  He has managed to exist in the hospital by reading voraciously, and turning everything into a game.  His life is predictable until Polina shows up…..What did it make me think about? This book explored the tragic consequence of the Chernobyl disaster by putting a voice to it.  Ivan’s voice is filled with suffering, hope, love, and humor.  This novel shines a light on the commonality of the human experience- no matter the circumstances.  The humor made the book palatable, as is seen in this exchange between Ivan and his favorite nurse- “How do we get there.” “A long time ago, Karl Benz invented the automobile.” ” I knew that.” “Then why’d you ask?” “I’ve never been in a car before.” “It’s like being in your bed, Ivan.  Only it moves.” “You’re wittier than normal.” “I switched coffees.  Now get dressed.” Should I read it? This novel was so easy to read that sometimes I felt like it was a Young Adult novel.  However the themes are as old as time.  I thought this was a lovely book, but even the humor could not hide the deep sadness of Ivan’s life. Quote- “Then it occurred to me that it didn’t matter because dying is the loneliest event in life.  Polina could be surrounded by a village, each resident tending to a different need, each one reminding her of why she mattered, and she would still die alone.  Because when it finally comes, you take the step into the black by yourself.”

Related books: