The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach

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Book Blurb from Goodreads.com:

Release Date: August 9, 2016

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.

My Review:

I thought about this book for a few days before writing this review. This novel will not be for everyone and aspects of it are not pleasant to read.  This story tugged at my heart and made me think about how important it is to have parents in your life.   Everyone deserves to feel loved regardless of how they look.

Ivan is a severely disfigured young adult due to radiation exposure from Chernobyl.  He has never met his parents or any of his family. The Mazyr Hospital has been Ivan’s home for his entire life. He has witnessed children come and go within the hospital for various ailments.  He is bright and his mind is sharp but does not really like people. He lives a mundane existence with the same daily routine, food choices, television hours etc..  Ivan has not had relationships with people other than with his nurses and relies upon the books he reads for information. His outlook on life changes when a new female patient with cancer arrives, Polina.

During the first part of the novel, you are introduced to Ivan’s life, those who helps take care of him, and how he spends his days. It is a bleak life with no formal schooling or social interaction with peers.  The book really takes off when he meets Polina. Ivan is intrigued by her, and a romance slowly starts. The once detached Ivan who never thought past his daily life, now has purpose.

This is a debut novel by the author.

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