BookBrowse Reviews The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach

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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

by Scott Stambach

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach X
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 336 pages

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The story of one brave teenager's fight to live with daunting challenges demonstrates the sheer strength of the human spirit.

BookBrowse First Impression reviewers were uniformly impressed by this difficult yet heartwarming story, with 21 out of 23 rating it four stars and higher.

Readers love Ivan — and his friend's — indomitable spirit

Ivan has been living in a children's hospital in Belarus all of his life because he was born with only nubs for feet, one arm with three fingers; he has no recollection of a mother or father; he survives in a wheelchair; and he is very smart. He is a Class A snoop. And then Polina arrives. She has cancer, but they form an unstoppable duo (Judy B).

They appreciated the memorable characters and vivid writing

I felt this book reads like a memoir rather than fiction. I will never forget Ivan for being determined, adventurous, intelligent, witty and loving. Both the characters and the setting were very real to me (Jean N). The author conveys the raw realities with dignity and the disobedient vitality of those often invisible to us. While there are teary episodes, it is the heartwarming moments and the "normalcy" of Ivan and Polina that shows the strength of humanity to make lemonade when given lemons. Kudos to the author for such an impressively rich and rewarding read (Beverly J).

It was inspiring to follow Ivan's story. He is the voice of this book. Highly intelligent, he strives to make more of his life beyond the limitations of the hospital and his own body. This is a story of survival, but also of compassion, cruelty and finally, love. The entire book is breathtaking for its story, characters and writing. The writing is amazing (Carole P).

Sensitive readers, take note...

I would like to warn readers of the foul language and sex that are included in this book. To some, this may be offensive (Patricia W). I recommend the book with the disclaimer that there are a few graphic sex scenes that might be offensive (Jean N).

A few readers found the novel to be difficult but rewarding

I found The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko a hard book to read. It has the social outrage of Dickens and the brooding introspection of Dostoevsky. But the characters are unforgettable, and the book is a reminder that humans are the most adaptable of animals (Mark O). If you can get past the underlying tragic lives, you will find humor, love, and humanity. Due to the underlying darkness, there is no way I can call this an enjoyable book, but the writing and insights into human behavior are exceptional (Valerie C).

Many reviewers found The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko to be exceptional

Stambach brings the grace of human nature to such a level that I found myself engrossed from page one. There are so many good novels just waiting to be read, that I rarely read one twice. I will make an exception with this novel. Stambach is that rare author that can capture the beauty of the human spirit in the most ugly of places and people. True genius! (Melissa S). How to describe this book? Amazing! Breathtaking! Inspiring ! Heartbreaking! (Carole P).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2016, and has been updated for the December 2016 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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