A bureaucratic glitch omits an entire building, along with its residents, from municipal records. So begins Maria Reva’s 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.”
More about this collection
‘Between humor and darkness’ – Fiction Writer’s Review interview with the author
‘The Place You Call Home’ – an in-depth interview about the book in The Nation
Maria Reva discussing her book on the podcast In the Moment
Daniil took a step forward. He bent down to the hole in the partition and looked at the bespectacled woman sitting behind it. “I’m here to report a heating problem in our building.”
“What’s the problem?”
“We have no heat.”
He explained that the building was a new one, this winter was its first, someone seemed to have forgotten to connect it to the district furnace, and the toilet water froze at night.
The clerk heaved a thick directory onto her counter. “Building address?”
“Ivansk Street, Number 1933.”
She flipped through the book, licking her finger every few pages. She flipped and flipped, consulted an index, flipped once more, shut the book, and folded her arms across it. “That building does not exist, Citizen.”
Daniil stared at the woman. “What do you mean? I live there.”
“According to the documentation, you do not.”
*– Maria Reva. Good Citizens Need Not Fear: (pp. 3-4). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.