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Ivan and Misha: Stories
     

Ivan and Misha: Stories

4.5 2
by Michael Alenyikov
 

The linked stories in this powerful debut by Michael Alenyikov swirl around the titular fraternal twins and their father, Louie, as they make their way from the oppressive world of Soviet-era Kiev to the frenetic world of New York City in the late nineties and early aughts. Ivan, like his father, is a natural seducer and gambler who always has a scheme afoot

Overview

The linked stories in this powerful debut by Michael Alenyikov swirl around the titular fraternal twins and their father, Louie, as they make their way from the oppressive world of Soviet-era Kiev to the frenetic world of New York City in the late nineties and early aughts. Ivan, like his father, is a natural seducer and gambler who always has a scheme afoot between fares in his cab and stints in Bellevue for his bipolar disorder. Misha, more haunted than his brother by the death of their mother after their birth, is ostensibly the voice of reason. 

Socially adrift, father and sons search for meaning in their divergent romantic relationships. Louie embarks on a traditional heterosexual dating relationship late in life, while Ivan is sexually opportunistic and omnivorous, and Misha,a young gay man, is torn between his family and the prospect of a committed relationship. The brothers’ search for connection leads them through a multitude of subcultures, all depicted in vivid detail. An evocative and frank exploration of identity, loss, dislocation, and sexuality, Ivan and Misha marks the arrival of a unique, authentic voice.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
This story cycle loosely depicts the lives of twin brothers Ivan and Misha, who were born in Kiev and brought to New York by their father at age eleven. After a prologue, set in Russia, Alenyikov brings the reader eleven years forward in the now-grown brothers' lives. The characterization is quite wonderful as Alenyikov vividly depicts Ivan and Misha with their quirks, their love for their father (born Lyov, transformed in New York to Louie), and their mutual support and occasional jealousies. Born Robbie, now known as Smith, Misha's 18-year-old lover is questing for identity and running from his midwestern roots. Louie's friend Leo is a true native of Brooklyn. Word madness is a hallmark of the writing: lyrical descriptions of place, time, and events; touches of the bizarre; everyday humor; and a love of New York from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn to the gentrifying East Village delight with their clarity and detail. Written with sweetness, compassion, and great beauty, this book will have broad appeal to lovers of short fiction, literary writing, and gay fiction. —Ellen Loughran
From the Publisher
"Ivan and Misha is the great American Russian Novel told as Chekhov would tell it, in stories of delicacy, humanity, and insight. From Kiev to Manhattan, Brighton Beach and Bellevue, Michael Alenyikov lays out a series of compelling arguments for brotherhood between brothers, between lovers, between men from an old country. Alenyikov confronts big subjects—illness and madness, sex and love in the age of AIDS, old and new world values, a fallen wall, the metaphysics of survival, the march of generations."

—Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons and Daughters of the Revolution

 

"For the Russian immigrant twins who are the main characters of Ivan and Misha, everyday existence consists of heartbreak, love, and the unexpected. With exuberance and dark humor, Michael Alenyikov depicts their life in New York. These wonderful connected stories are full of warmth, psychological insight, and winning originality."

—Alice Mattison, author of Nothing Is

Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn "A haunting collectionof love and duty. There ismuch to admire on every page."

—Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody’s Daughter

Library Journal
This collection of interrelated short stories revolves around a pair of fraternal twins, Ivan and Misha, brought to America as children along with their father, who goes by Louie. Ivan inherited his father's dark good looks and his mother's bipolar disease, which, unbeknownst to the pair, led to her suicide when they were young. Misha has his mother's blond coloring and the burden of responsibility for his brother. Both brothers become involved in gay relationships, which strain their own bonds. Alenyikov's richly detailed yet straightforward prose pulls us into the world the father and brothers have made for themselves in contemporary Brooklyn, capturing the jitteriness of Ivan's manic episodes, the tensions of urban gay life, and the coping with family acceptance and AIDS. In one story, set in the week before 9/11, the mere dates on the calendar put readers on edge. The strongest story, told in Louie's voice, takes us inside the infirmities, sorrows, and long perspective of advancing age. VERDICT Highly recommended, especially for readers of literary gay fiction, although the themes of exile and familial affection will interest a wider audience.—Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810127180
Publisher:
Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
10/30/2010
Pages:
212
Sales rank:
1,312,408
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Related Subjects

What People are Saying About This

Alice Mattison
For the Russian immigrant twins who are the main characters of lvan and Misha, everyday existence consists of heartbreak, love, and the unexpected. With exuberance and dark humor. Michael Alenyikov depicts their life in New York. These wonderful connected stories are full of warmth, psychological insight, and winning originality. (Alice Mattison, author of Nothing Is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn)
Carolyn Cooke
Ivan and Misha is the Great American Russian Novel told as Chekhov Would tell it, in stories of delicacy, humanity, and insight. From Kiev to Manhattan, Brighton Beach, and Bellevue, Michael Alenyikov lays out a series of compelling arguments for brotherhood between brothers, between lovers, between men from an old country. Alenyikov confronts big subjects—-illness and madness, sex and love in the age of AIDS, Old and New World values, a fallen wall, the metaphysics of survival, the march of generations. (Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons and Daughters of the Revolution)
Marie Myung-Ok Lee
A haunting collection of love and duty. There is much to admire on every page. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody's Daughter)

Meet the Author

Michael Alenyikov’s short stories have appeared in Canada’s Descant, the Georgia Review, New York Stories, and the James White Review, and have been anthologized in Best Gay Stories 2008 and Tartts Four: Incisive Fiction from Emerging Writers. His essays have appeared in the Gay & Lesbian Review. He was a MacDowell Fellow in 2004–5, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. Raised in New York City, Alenyikov has worked as a bookstore clerk, a clinical psychologist, a cab driver, an interactive media writer, and a consultant. He lives in San Francisco.

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Ivan and Misha 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Ryan_G More than 1 year ago
First of all, I love short stories. When they are done right, they are short, brilliantly told glimpses into the character's life as they experience some sort of conflict or decision. When they are done wrong, they can be chaotic in pace and tell a story so full of holes, it seems you are reading a rather large piece of Swiss cheese. Thankfully this collection falls into that first category. It's a fascinating novel told within the bounds of unsequential short stories. What I loved about his book is how it, despite the secondary characters, narrowed in on the rather symbiotic (borderline parasitic) relationship between the two brothers, who are fraternal twins. Relationships between siblings can often times be complicated, messy things with boundaries being crossed countless times. Things are no different between Ivan & Misha. They are constantly involved with the most personal things in each other's lives, sometimes making others a bit jealous. They had a rather traumatic childhood, involving the the death of their mother and a sudden move to a new country, all at a very young age. Those two events shaped the rest of their lives in ways both good and bad. They never knew the truth of their mother's death because their father didn't want to burden them with the sickness that slowly took her life. Instead he told them that she died after giving birth to them. I think that's the first mistake he made. That death, and as a result their mother, took on an almost mythical role in their lives. The story of a mother who dies in able for her children to be born, becomes an example of love that nothing else can ever possibly reach. It's an a goal that can never be reached by anyone else. For me, it's that struggle for love that shapes both of their lives. Because of that warped sense of what pure loves is, it sends both boys down roads and into relationships with those that can never truly be there for them. Ivan, at a young age, becomes involved with an older man who can never fully commit and gives him HIV. His next serious relationship, with Smith, is with a younger man who not only can't really commit to Ivan, despite really loving him, but can't commit to a name or an identity for himself. Misha craves love from his father and anyone else that will have him. He has an almost manic need to be wanted by someone, a need that he will turn back around on his brother. It's that last part that shapes their bond more than anything else. I know quite a few of the reviews I've read take issue with the way the second story ends in the book. For some it was an action that came out of the blue or was added for the shock value. When it first happened, I will admit to feeling a little unsure of it myself. I wasn't able to understand why it was happening or the necessity for it. Once I finished the book, it made a little more sense to me. The action takes place in such a profound moment of grief and despair that they both need something to grasp onto as an anchor to keep them slipping over the edge. After getting to know them, I not only don't think it was out of character for their relationship, but I think that it was almost inevitable. I could be off base and totally wrong, there may have been another reason for it to happen, but I don't think it was for the shock value. Ivan & Misha was one of those rare books that keeps my attention long after I've finished it. Michael Alenyikov writes with one of th
ParachuteDreams More than 1 year ago
Ivan and Misha was the only story that managed to touch my black heart this year. Bravo Mr. Alenyikov. I hope to read more from you soon.