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You Are One of Them
by Elliott Holt

Overview - "A hugely absorbing first novel from a writer with a fluid, vivid style and a rare knack for balancing the pleasure of entertainment with the deeper gratification of insight. More, please."
--Maggie Shipstead, "The New York Times Book Review" (Editors' Choice)
"A story about Russia, the United States, friendship, identity, defection, and deception that is smart, startling, and worth reading regardless of when you were born."
--Kathryn Schulz, "New York Magazine"
"Holt's beguiling debut...
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More About You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt
 
 
 
Overview
"A hugely absorbing first novel from a writer with a fluid, vivid style and a rare knack for balancing the pleasure of entertainment with the deeper gratification of insight. More, please."
--Maggie Shipstead, "The New York Times Book Review" (Editors' Choice)
"A story about Russia, the United States, friendship, identity, defection, and deception that is smart, startling, and worth reading regardless of when you were born."
--Kathryn Schulz, "New York Magazine"
"Holt's beguiling debut... in which there is no difference between personal and political betrayal, vividly conjures the anxieties of the Cold War without ever lapsing into nostalgia."
--"The New Yorker"
Sarah Zuckerman and Jennifer Jones are best friends in an upscale part of Washington, D.C., in the politically charged 1980s. Sarah is the shy, wary product of an unhappy home: her father abandoned the family to return to his native England; her agoraphobic mother is obsessed with fears of nuclear war. Jenny is an all-American girl who has seemingly perfect parents. With Cold War rhetoric reaching a fever pitch in 1982, the ten-year-old girls write letters to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov asking for peace. But only Jenny's letter receives a response, and Sarah is left behind when her friend accepts the Kremlin's invitation to visit the USSR and becomes an international media sensation. The girls' icy relationship still hasn't thawed when Jenny and her parents die tragically in a plane crash in 1985.
Ten years later, Sarah is about to graduate from college when she receives a mysterious letter from Moscow suggesting that Jenny's death might have been a hoax. She sets off to the former Soviet Union in search of the truth, but the more she delves into her personal Cold War history, the harder it is to separate facts from propaganda.
"You Are One of Them" is a taut, moving debut about the ways in which we define ourselves against others and the secrets we keep from those who are closest to us. In her insightful forensic of a mourned friendship, Holt illuminates the long lasting sting of abandonment and the measures we take to bring back those we have lost.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781594205286
  • ISBN-10: 1594205280
  • Publisher: Penguin Press
  • Publish Date: May 2013
  • Page Count: 293
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-04-08
  • Reviewer: Staff

Fresh from college, adrift Washington, D.C., native Sarah Zuckerman heads to post–Cold War Moscow in search of clues about what happened to Jenny Jones, her childhood best friend. After she wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov asking for peace in 1982, when the girls were 10, Jenny was invited to the U.S.S.R. as a “peace ambassador” and became an international sensation. But three years later, she and her parents were killed in a plane crash—or so it seemed. In 1995, Sarah receives a letter from a Russian woman named Svetlana, who hints that Jenny might be alive. But once in drab, polluted Moscow, a “place of new money and ancient grudges,” Sarah worries that she’s being lied to and manipulated. Holt creates strong roots, both in 1980s America—with references to friendship pins, Casey Kasem, and the ever-persistent threat of nuclear war—and 1990s Moscow, where tracksuits and cigarettes are never far away. Telling details of Soviet oppression and Russia’s budding advertising industry paint a vivid portrait of a country testing the waters of democracy. Holt, who won a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction, writes with a pleasing, wry intelligence in this promising debut. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (June)

 
BookPage Reviews

Separating truth from propaganda in a Cold War mystery

In 2007, New York magazine lauded Elliott Holt as one of six “literary stars of tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow is finally here, and Holt’s debut novel, You Are One of Them, does not disappoint.

Readers are introduced to Sarah Zuckerman and her new neighbor/soon-to-be-best friend, Jennifer Jones, in late 1980s Washington, D.C. Sarah’s family is cloaked in tragedy (a dead sister, an absentee father, an agoraphobic mother), so it is no wonder that she gravitates to Jennifer, an all-American girl whose family seems to have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. As Cold War fever rises, both girls decide to write letters to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, requesting peace. Mysteriously, only Jennifer’s letter is received by Andropov—and published in the Russian newspaper Pravda. Jennifer and her family accept the Kremlin’s invitation of a tour of the U.S.S.R., which results in Jennifer’s becoming the Goodwill Ambassador between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. (and a media darling as well).

Flash forward about 10 years, and Jennifer is dead after a tragic plane crash. Over the years, the girls’ relationship had deteriorated, yet Sarah struggles with letting go of the memory of her childhood best friend. When a vague email from a woman named Svetlana arrives in Sarah’s inbox, Sarah goes on a mission to Russia, searching for answers about Jennifer’s disappearance. Did her family’s plane really go down due to operational malfunctions, or was there an international conspiracy at work? 

Loosely based on the true story of Samantha Smith (whose own death was rumored to be set in motion by the U.S.S.R.), Jennifer’s tale will leave readers clamoring for the truth. Could her family possibly have defected? Or is Sarah merely obsessed with the loss of a friend that she never fully understood to begin with?

Fans of espionage mysteries, the Cold War era and the chilling landscape of Russia will gravitate toward You Are One of Them.

 
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