4 out of 5 stars
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Maxym Mikhailovich Ivanov had the trappings of a normal life. At six years old, he had his mama, papa, and ten-year-old sister, Dasha, who adored him and whom he loved back in return. However, all this changed after his family moved to Grozny. They were brutally murdered in their home by Wahhabis during the Battle of Grozny in 2000, which changed everything for Max. Fortunately for him, a soldier from the Russian militia, Leonid, found him hours later in the cupboard where Max’s mother had hidden him from the attackers. Leonid takes him to their base, where Max is introduced to the world of guns and killing—at six years old. After Leonid gets injured and discharged from duty, he takes in Max and cares for him. How will these traumatic events affect Max as he grows? Find out in Maxym by Patrick C. Notchtree.
Words aren’t enough to describe how much I love this book. I have been and have loved reading for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never come across a character like Maxym Mikhailovich Ivanovich. Notchtree accurately depicts the juxtaposition of Max, which I always marvelled at: he can be really sweet, sensitive, kind, and generous, especially with his loved ones and sometimes not even limited to them, and then there’s a side to him that can be cold, ruthless, and cruel, even to those close to him. Notchtree did a marvelous job with the plot. Like the movie Boyhood, it felt like I was going through the different stages of life with Max. The cover depiction of Max is very apt because you wouldn’t believe what an innocent-looking boy like that is capable of. I anticipated that Max’s traumatic childhood would affect him, but the author still blew me away with his portrayal of the complexities and nuances that made up Max.
I loved the relationship between Leonid and Max; their bond was beautiful. I was always hopeful for Max and Andrei, and I kept rooting for them. The book’s setting is mostly Russia, and while the characters spoke Russian, it was written in English. The author helpfully included a note at the beginning that actual English would be in italics. I honestly don’t know how he did it, but I could ‘hear’ the different languages. I could hear Russian—even when written in English. I could also hear when it switched to English, including the American accent. It is just more proof of the author’s superb writing skills.
I could go on about the many other things I loved about this book, but for this review, I’ll keep it brief. I’d truly love to sit with the author to learn how this book originated and his writing process. He stated that it’s a biography inspired by true events, and I’m absolutely intrigued about who the real-life Maxym Ivanovich is. There was a point when I first started reading that I felt like there were many unnecessary things that added to the book’s length of over 600 pages, but as I went on, I understood that this was essential to its plot-building, and I grew to love the details. I devoured this book in days despite its length.
As a result of how much I love this book, it pains me that I can’t give it a perfect rating because of its editing. This book will definitely benefit from another in-depth look from an editor; there were many errors. As a result, I’ll rate it 4 out of 5 stars. As stated in its description, Maxym truly isn’t for the fainthearted; there’s a lot of explicit and graphic content. However, none of these scenes, be it sex, language, or violence, were gratuitous; they were necessary and aided the plotline. If Maxym is ever made into a movie, I’ve no doubt it will rack up (and be deserving of) many awards.
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