Good Citizens Need Not Fear: Stories by Maria Reva [in Shelf Awareness]
Ivansk Street, Number 1933, in Kirovka, Ukraine, seems be an exact address, but the town council’s clerk insists “that building does not exist.” Constructed last year, “someone seemed to have forgotten to connect it to the district furnace,” but plenty of people already live there. These inhabitants comprise the memorable cast in Ukraine-born Maria Reva’s skillful debut collection, Good Citizens Need Not Fear. The interconnected stories – inspired, remarkably, by her family’s experiences – is a stupendous amalgam of pathos, black comedy, and preposterous, post-USSR surreality.
Daniil, the building’s no-heat messenger in “Novostroïka,” is just one among 14 who inhabit his overcrowded unit. Zaya, an orphan with a cleft palate who gets discarded in “Little Rabbit,” becomes a temporary 1933 Ivansk resident in “Miss USSR,” then returns briefly in “Homecoming.” A government agent sent to wrangle remorse from a famous poet in “Letter of Apology” ends up in the poet’s employ guarding a saint’s tomb in “Lucky Toss.” Meanwhile, the poet’s wife, Milena, sells illicit tunes etched into X-rays in “Bone Music,” working with a neighbor whose near-empty abode will eventually receive one of Daniil’s 13 roommates. Milena, too, switches units when she follows her heart in “The Ermine Coat,” while an elderly couple living utterly alone in “Roach Brooch” inherits a Madagascar hissing cockroach that could prove invaluable – or not.
Nine entangled, intertwined, intricate stories later, Reva’s fictional characters domiciled in a nonexistent building might seem absurd, but her remarkably convincing narratives assure plenty of thoughtful entertainment.
Discover: Maria Reva’s debut collection of nine interconnected stories, with autobiographical overtones, is a tragicomedy of the utmost absurd.