Good Citizens Need Not Fear – Maria Reva

“Many people claim they like certainty, but I do not believe this is true—it is uncertainty that gives freedom of mind.”

Maria Reva’s debut novel is a collection of interrelated short stories set in the years leading up to and the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The stories largely follow the tenants of an apartment building in a small Ukrainian town. Due to a clerical error, the building remains unregistered in government records. The building doesn’t exist, and neither do the needs of its occupants.

The book contains a sizable cast of characters, and each story comes from a unique perspective. From a rebellious poet to a reclusive grandmother that sells bootleg vinyl records, Reva’s characters range from eccentric to fastidious. They have their fears and struggles but cling fast to their dreams and aspirations. And despite an inept bureaucracy that wishes to forget about them, the occupants of 1933 Ivansk Street will not be overlooked.

Reva was born in Ukraine and bases the stories on her and her family’s own experiences. She uses this intimate knowledge to create characters full of depth and complexity. Reva masterfully weaves together humour and tragedy to show how individuals, families, and communities persevere and persist in desperate circumstances. The stories, at times, seem unimaginable and absurd, but the historical context contains an undeniable truth.

Reva’s Good Citizens Need Not Fear is a book you won’t be able to put down once you start.

For more book recommendations, check out our February 2021 Book of the Month.