Good Citizens Need Not Fear
By Maria Reva
"Bright, funny, satirical and relevant. . . . A new talent to watch"--Margaret Atwood
"These immersive linked stories grapple with Ukrainian history through the waning years of the USSR and birth pangs of democracy...Reva's characters spark off the page as they confront a brutal bureaucratic past with the only tool they possess--hope."--O, The Oprah Magazine
A brilliant and bitingly funny collection of stories united around a single crumbling apartment building in Ukraine.
A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Reva's "darkly hilarious" (Anthony Doerr) intertwined narratives, nine stories that span the chaotic years leading up to and immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. But even as the benighted denizens of 1933 Ivansk Street weather the official neglect of the increasingly powerless authorities, they devise ingenious ways to survive.
In "Bone Music," an agoraphobic recluse survives by selling contraband LPs, mapping the vinyl grooves of illegal Western records into stolen X-ray film. A delusional secret service agent in "Letter of Apology" becomes convinced he's being covertly recruited to guard Lenin's tomb, just as his parents, not seen since he was a small child, supposedly were. Weaving the narratives together is the unforgettable, chameleon-like Zaya: a cleft-lipped orphan in "Little Rabbit," a beauty-pageant crasher in "Miss USSR," a sadist-for-hire to the Eastern Bloc's newly minted oligarchs in "Homecoming."
Good Citizens Need Not Fear tacks from moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, exploring what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family's own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings the black absurdism of early Shteyngart and the sly interconnectedness of Anthony Marra's Tsar of Love and Techno to a "bang-on brilliant" (Miriam Toews) collection that is "fearless and thrilling" (Bret Anthony Johnston), and as clever as it is heartfelt.
Best Fiction of 2020 —The Guardian
"Maria Reva’s enthralling debut of interlinked short stories achieves the double effect of timelessness and timeliness. The emotional impact of this book is cumulative. This is partly down to her mastery of the form: the stories are connected by a unity of place, time and relationship. More importantly, they are brought to life by Reva’s handling of darkness and light."
"One of the leading post-Soviet writers of her generation while breaking through the limitations of the term itself...[Reva] proves to be an incredible builder of worlds."