Nilufar Sharipova’s short story collection You’ve Got Grave Issues depicts hilarious snapshots of the ‘Municipal Cemetery Department’ and its employees, hence the title’s double entendre. You’ve Got Grave Issues speaks to the sense of control humans believe we wield over our lives. An array of masterfully rendered characters demonstrate the anxieties, concerns, and thrills we all carry in life and to the grave. From the bossy flower shop director to the timid night guard to the capitalist priest, every character’s complexities are all the more relatable for being presented within three or fewer pages. The Soviet/early post-Soviet setting amplifies these ever-human stories of thinking (or pretending) to have control, taking it from others, giving it away, and losing it entirely.
Sharipova’s command of short fiction shines through all eighteen stories in You’ve Got Grave Issues. Her textbook build-up mirrors the first minute of a roller-coaster. Then, Sharipova swiftly gives readers wild twists with a satisfying, laugh-out-loud end. Of course, Anne O. Fisher’s excelłent translation lets English-speaking readers temporarily believe they belong to the culture of the municipality. After all, we are all complicit in the grave. Finally, Rusudan Kipiani’s illustrations add a stirring, other-worldy dimension to the gravely comical tales.
You’ve Got Grave Issues reminds readers of our own sense of control. Yet riding a roller-coaster means giving in to the moment. What’s left is kismet, joy, and maybe, if you’re lucky, a coffin full of ‘Pocklava.’
Lehyla G. Heward
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