Tag Archives: Elliott Holt

You Are One of Them, by Elliott Holt

You_Are_Them

You Are One of Them

By Elliott Holt

Penguin, 2013

293 pages

I love to travel and am drawn to books about expats and people who explore the world. You Are One of Them is partially set in Moscow, in the early 1990s, and appeals to my wanderer side. I spent time in the 90s in what was then Czechoslovakia, and the lives of the American expats living in Moscow in this book remind me of my experiences in Eastern Europe at that time.

You Are One of Them tells the story of Sarah Zuckerman, an American woman whose best friend from childhood, Jennifer Jones, became famous after writing a letter to Yuri Andropov at age 10 asking him for peace. Not only does the letter get published in a Russian paper, Andropov replies and invites Jenny to the Soviet Union for a visit. Jenny writes a book about her trip, but her life ends tragically when she and her parents die in a plane crash a few years later.

After graduating from college, Sarah receives a letter from Svetlana, a young woman Jenny met on her trip to the Soviet Union. Svetlana lures Sarah to Moscow with the possibility that Jenny might not actually be dead. The book narrates the years Sarah and Jenny were friends growing up and then captures Sarah’s time in Moscow—where she spends three months. She lives with an American journalist who is the friend of a college friend and meets Svetlana.

Holt has an amazingly strong narrative voice. The book is told from Sarah’s perspective, and she is whip smart, a bit awkward, the only child of divorced parents, raised by an agoraphobic mother. The book deftly captures life in the US during the Cold War in the 80s and the early post-Cold War years in Moscow in the 90s. Ultimately this is a book about female friendship and how girlhood friendships stay with us as we become adults. There is also an abandonment theme to the story. Sarah not only lost Jenny, she also had an older sister who died, and after Sarah’s parents split up, her father moves back to the UK, and she barely sees him. Sarah is a young woman coming to terms with childhood loss as she figures out where she fits in the adult world.

If you are looking for a good summer read, or something to read while you travel, I recommend this book. I read most of it on a train ride to and from DC a short while ago. It is engrossing and satisfying, with a subtle sense of mystery.

Holt lives on the east coast. She won a Pushcart Award for her story “Fem Care.”

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Franklin Park reading series – debut discoveries

Last Monday, I attended a reading at Franklin Park, a bar in Brooklyn, where I heard a few debut authors read from their works. The theme was travels and journeys.

Elliott Holt read from her debut novel, You Are One of Them. This book has been getting a lot of good press. It’s about the friendship of two American girls, Sarah and Jennifer, who grow up together in DC. Jennifer’s family moves to Moscow in the 80s, when she is a teen, and the family dies in a plane crash. Ten years later, Sarah travels to Moscow on a tip that her friend might not be dead.

Sarah Bruni read from her debut novel, The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Riffing off the Spider-Man comics series, Sheila, a teenage girl from Iowa, who is saving up her money to travel to France, meets a man who calls himself Peter Parker and entices her to set off on an adventure. The chapter she read from was based in Iowa City – my hometown. Gotta support a novel set in Iowa!

And finally, Emily Raboteau, who has published fiction, read from her first memoir, Searching for Zion. The book chronicles her journey to Africa, Jamaica and the American South to learn more about Black Zionists. She read a chapter from her visit to Jamaica where she learned about Rastafarianism.

All three authors were great readers and made me interested in their books. I hope to review at least one of them in more depth later this year.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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