"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, inspired by the author and her family's own experiences.
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. 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.