L710Having grown up in the Land of Liberty, I always took it for granted that my life was more or less my own. After all, the U.S.A. wasn’t the U.S.S.R., and yet, even good ole’ Uncle Sam sees fit to listen in on calls for the good of the state.

President Bush authorized warrantless wiretapping on civilian phone calls in the wake of the September 11th attacks, and the surveillance situation has only gotten more invasive since. National security issues aside, the erosion of privacy is palpable. Even though my conversations generally center on family and work updates, it still gives typical folk like me the creeps to imagine anyone listening in on over a decade of my calls. (Did they ever get bored and hang up?)  It isn’t difficult to imagine how an entire population could be reduced to mass paranoia, especially if that population is living under Communist rule…

The Krasnikov family has major reasons to look back over their shoulders. Anya is a young Moscow mother living the good life, on the payroll of the KGB. Her husband Lev teaches at the local university and her daughter Karina is enrolled in a full-day government-run preschool. Anya enjoys imported products that only foreign currency can buy, ignores the plight of the disloyal enemies of the state being interrogated in her office’s basement, and seems to have an idyllic warped Soviet existence – until everything unravels. Anya is a Jew by birth, but Lev has taken his birthright much further. So far, that everyone he loves may soon be taken hostage because of it.

Even the people who extend their hands to help the Krasnikovs are suspect. And it’s easy to understand why: Most Soviet citizens were trained to save their own skin at all costs. Who can the Krasnikovs trust when their very survival is at stake? Read Hostage (from the front to the back – no cheating!) and you’ll know.

Guest Blogger: Sara Miriam Gross

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