You Are One Of Them

You Are One Of Them by Eliott Holt - 304 pages
Book Blurb:
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.

My Review: 3 stars
Let me start by saying that I too, like the author, grew up in a suburb of Washington DC and this author did a phenomenal job of bringing me home. Her shout outs to the early 80’s with store names, parks, or my beloved radio station Q107, were spot on. I enjoyed this book but wanted more depth about Jenny (the friend who “died” in a plane crash) and how she survived defection/her life in Russia/adapting/etc.  This book was a little of everything, which for some readers is fine, but for me it was too jumbled to be categorized; it was a little mystery, a little friendship, a little history, some loss and loneliness, some coming of age, etc. Moscow could be it’s own character as the author wrote about it beautifully, completely drawing the grey, bitter cold streets and monuments into my mind. I re-learned quite a bit regarding cold war history and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. The early part of the book with Sarah and Jenny becoming best friends is well paced and wonderfully described. The beauty, innocence and blossoming of your first real friendship was made quite relatable. The ending felt slightly rushed for me and although the ambiguous ending worked in this book, I would’ve liked more finality.
Quotes I liked:
- “I have come to believe that forgiveness is the key to survival. It does no good to see everything as a struggle between opposing factions. Few things are that simple.”

- “ At school I learned to catch the sorrow in my throat and then stick my head into my locker and let the tears slide down my cheeks without making any vibration at all.”

- “It’s not that I didn’t believe in anything, it’s that I regretted believing too much. I believed in too many people. Like an idiot, I believed in forever.”
- Tags: 2013, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Russia, Mystery, Friendship, Coming Of Age

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