From Library Journal
"Ivan and Misha"
by Michael Alenyikov. This collection of short stories revolves around a pair of fraternal twins, Ivan and Misha, brought to America as children, along with their father, Louie. Ivan inherited his father's dark good looks and his mother's bipolar disease . . . 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 New York City, 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 puts readers on edge. The strongest story, told in Louie's voice, takes us inside the infirmities, sorrows, and the 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 University, Libs. Harrisonburg, VA --Library Journal,
November 3, 2010
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 13 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