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2011 Northern California Book Awards - Fiction - Winner

NCBR review of Ivan and Misha, Stories by Michael Alenyikov

TriQuarterly Books

Its publisher labels this stunning debut a collection of stories, but it could just as easily have been called a novel. All of the stories focus on or circle around the eponymous fraternal twins and their father Lyov who emigrate from Kiev to New York City in the 1980s. Eleven at the time of the move, Ivan and Misha have become men very different from one another when the book ends in 2001. Father, sons, lovers, friends, neighbors, co-workers are captured from different points of view and at different, nonsequential times during these years, so that we come to see their lives from multiple and constantly changing angles, a sort of literary cubism. Together the stories have the thrilling surprises, the emotional depth, and the cumulative power of a longer work of fiction. Ivan and Misha is witty and lyrical, but it is also very tough. As he chronicles the terrors as well as the joys of family life and of homosexual love, the irretrievable lies of the past and the unfulfilled longings of the present, the sorrows of exile and the brutalities of the new world, the author never flinches or sentimentalizes. From page twenty-four of Ivan and Misha: "The troika: Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol. Endlessly read." In bringing the expansive vision of Tolstoy, the often scabrous humor of Gogol, and the tenderness of Chekov to the mean streets of New York and the United States in the Age of AIDS, Michael Alenyikov has created a new American classic.

About the NCBR: NCBR/Northern California Book Reviewers, a volunteer group of book reviewers, book review editors, and others who read passionately and write about reading, have met regularly since 1981 to celebrate books by presenting annual book awards to northern California authors. See the 2011 NCBA page under PF Programs for the complete list of finalists and winners.


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