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You Are One of Them

by Elliott Holt

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3361654,687 (3.74)16
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.… (more)



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Elliott Holt did an interview with The Millions, as well! This makes me wish every book had author explanations for the choices in cover and plot, which helps with my comprehension of the novel. http://www.themillions.com/2013/09/the-do-or-die-novelist-an-interview-with-elli...

To add a little more intrigue -- the blog Talking Covers just posted the author, designer and photographer's thought on the cover of the hardback. Excellent! http://talkingcovers.com/2013/07/23/you-are-one-of-them

Goes right along with my obsession of The Americans tv show. The closing pages also really resonated with me, having lost friends along the way that were tough to let go. ( )
  amandanan | Jun 6, 2020 |
If you're expecting a mystery thriller, you're going to be disappointed. I must have read too much into the book's summary. ( )
  Ltwente | Mar 19, 2018 |
Good but a little thin. Like The Americans but without the wigs. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This is a story about defection: spies defecting to Russia during the cold war, and personal defections as the main character (Sarah) loses loved ones to death and to divorce. The book is well written with strong characters and a compelling story. Ms. Holt has done a great job of weaving the story of the political atmosphere of the Cold War into the psyche and experiences of her characters. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 29, 2016 |
Ten-year-old Sarah Zuckerman was a bit of a loner until Jenny Jones and her family moved in down the street. Sarah’s parents’ marriage had broken up after the death of her older sister, and her father had moved back to London while she and her activist mother remained in the Washington, DC suburbs. It was 1982, a time when tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were running especially high, and the girls decided to write letters to Soviet premier Yuri Andropov pleading for peace. To their suprise, Jenny’s letter received a response, and she and her family were invited to visit the USSR. Jenny’s informal ambassadorship made her a celebrity in both countries, but it strained her friendship with Sarah. While the girls has become rather distant by the time Jenny and her parents were killed in a plane crash in 1985, the death gave Sarah a small degree of notoriety by association as Jenny’s best friend. Ten years later, recently graduated from college, Sarah embarks on her own voyage to Moscow. The Cold War has become part of history, but Sarah has some history to unravel–she’s going to meet a young woman named Svetlana, who recently wrote her to suggest that Jenny might not really be dead after all.

The letter-writing and the death of the letter writer were both inspired by the real-life story of Samantha Smith, who corresponded with Soviet premier Andropov in 1982, became a minor celebrity, and was killed in a plane crash in 1985. The mystery that frames the book, and which occupies most of the second-half narrative, is a product of the author’s imagination.

You Are One of Them held my attention from start to finish. I’m a bit older than Holt’s characters and had longer experience with Cold War mentality and rhetoric than they did, but she evokes the Ronald Reagan “Evil Empire” era vividly and effectively. Perhaps because these elements are so well-done, Sarah’s flashbacks to her childhood experiences with Jenny make a stronger impression than the later scenes in Moscow, and while the mystery is a compelling one, its unfolding is a bit frustrating and its resolution, for me, fell a little flat.

MORE: https://3rsblog.com/2016/04/you-are-one-of-them-by-elliott-holt-book-thoughts.ht... ( )
  Florinda | Jul 25, 2016 |
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The babble, babble, words, like the solitary child who turns himself into children, two, three, so as to be together, and whispering together, in the dark. -- Samuel Beckett, Endgame.
For my mother, who wasn't afraid of anything
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The first defector was my sister.
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