At the heart of every action we take in life, is the yearning to live forever. It is a feeling that is shared by every human and yet is the least expressed of our desires. It is this emotion that singularly drives the many adventures of The Invisible Life Of Isaac Isaenko; a story of many themes. It is the first book of – Scott Stambach – and it memoirs the life of -Ivan Isaenko,-an inpatient in the Mezzyrs Hospital of the gravely ill.
It is first a love story, in it we follow Ivan Isaenko a physically handicapped boy of seventeen who has spent his entire life in the Mazzyrs Hospital of the gravely ill. His life is lonely, consisting of furious and diversified reading of books provided by a kind and
motherly Nurse Natalya and engagement in every sort of prank or diversion he could find in other to escape the boredom of his life and the hideous malformed shape of his body.
His loneliness is further exacerbated by the fact that though he is surrounded by other patients, they are so mentally ill that he can’t have any sort of intellectual intercourse with them. All these changes when he meets a new intake Polina who, though she suffers from leukemia, is able to give him the sort of relationship he desperately craves for.
Weaved in between this love story is a sociopolitical commentary reflecting the devastating effects of the Chernobyl incident, the strangulating economy of Belarus (Look them up!) and consequent job insecurity which strikes fear and resentment in the citizenry and the staff of the hospital.
The book is both gay and bleak in varying degrees, and threatens to be repulsive especially as Ivan describes some patients of the hospital. However it becomes quickly intriguing as we begin to peek into his personality and world.You start to admire the perseverance with which he chases new ideas despite his limitations.
Having an arm and no legs, routine things are normally exerting to Ivan but still he takes pride in not just performing them Himself but also learning new skills that stretches him further- typically going at it for eight hours at a stretch.
We admire his active curiousity that not only makes him an avid reader but also leads him to explore and discover both virtue and vice and every crevice of the hospital. We admire his intelligence and his wit that endears him to Polina and Nurse Natalya and alienates him from the other hospital residents and staff.
We are intrigued by his ever active imagination and are happy when he meets Polina, a teenager who not only matches him in intelligence and imagination but also outdoes him in each of the above mentioned departments.
But most of all, this is a story about life, not just in the fact that the hospital and everyone in it makes up the world of Ivan Isaenko. It is in the fact that it reflects everything we could possibly find in life.
In it, we see love as shown by both Nurse Natalya and Polina, we see hatred as shown by Nurse Ldyumila and we find indifference and complete selfishness in the director Mikhail. In Ivan’s world, we discover Joy brought about by a grim determination not to sink into despair, to live each day at a time and to find peace in simple things. We see friendship and love but also the pain, desperation and disappointment of being handicapped, of being trapped and of losing everything you’ve gained.
He agonises over the state of the world:
“I want things to make sense, my brain needs them to but they never do!” And yet his situation is such that he can only regret each second he loses to the daily things we frequently indulge in – the pettiness and childish anger that make us mean to loved ones, the pride that cause us to reject company, the delusional feeling of immortality that makes us feel invincible when we are not.
Because time, love and friendship are scarce commodities that cannot be wasted but can only be maximised. And Ivan has learned to squeeze them of every juice.
But the greatest lesson that would be learnt from this book is
the remarkable mental disposition of its central character to:
1) Give to others no matter how little your circumstances permit it.
2) Never let any distraction or meaningless pursuit prevent you from enjoying the company of family and good friends.
3) Never let fear, cynicism and bitterness deny you the experience, joy and euphoria of
Always, always, live and savour each day and second of your life!
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The Invisible life Of Ivan Isaenko is available in paperback, hardback and audio.
Buy it on Amazon here: https://goo.gl/TuV3xa or if you’re super lucky, you may stumble on a used copy at a secondhand books store. 🙂