The Invisible Life Of Ivan Isaenko

By Scott Stambach

8/10
(8/10)

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.”

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