Unabridged Chick

I'm Audra, a 30-something married lesbian. I love interesting heroines, gorgeous prose, place as character, and the occasional werewolf.
Ivan and Misha: A Novel in Stories - Michael Alenyikov Another book I'm struggling to review because I enjoyed it so much (why is it so hard to review something really good?). This subtitle of this book is 'Stories' (as opposed to 'A Novel') but there's more cohesion in this than in some novels I've read. The stories center around fraternal twins Ivan and Misha, Ukrainian immigrants living in New York City, and their small sphere: their father Louie, Misha's boyfriend Smith, Ivan's lovers and confidantes. Each story begins almost in the middle -- it would take me a minute or two to figure out who the focus of the story was, when the story was set -- but despite my brief disorientation, I read on because the characters so intrigued me. There's a bittersweet sadness to the stories that comes from the few secrets kept between the brothers, the tension of family and the other people who want them (or worse, don't). I don't read much fiction about fathers and sons, but certainly I could relate to the uncomfortable agony of a frustrating parent or sibling. The secondary characters aren't just foils for Ivan, Misha, and Louie -- they're vibrant and have their own complicated back stories, jostling for the reader's attention the way they jostled for Ivan and Misha's attention. Alenyikov's writing style was the star for me: the narrative is nearly dreamy, a mix of dialogue and stream-of-consciousness, flashback and action. That makes it sound very convoluted, but it isn't; I was reminded of Jeanette Winterson and Anne Carson, maybe Michael Cunningham a little. Alenyikov created unease, quietude, or amped-up anxiousness with his writing style, depending on who the focus of each story was, and I loved that even the prose had personality. New Yorkers will want to read this as Ivan is a cabbie and the city looms and supports, a constant backdrop to the stories. (There's a bit with a Mormon missionary looking at the nighttime skyline, and he says: "They say it's a godless place, but unless it's the devil's work, this is, well, you know, it looks like heaven." I figured New Yorkers would crow with delight.) Still, whether you're blessed to be from New York City or not, pick up this book: it's a slender read (less than 200 pages), but meaty, a wonderful and heartbreaking look at love, family, and belonging.