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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Are One of Them: A Novel

I wasn't quite sure of what I was getting into when I picked up Elliott Holt's You Are One of Them, I only knew that it came highly recommended. Now I am the one highly recommending it.

Sarah and Jennifer are best friends in the early '80's; Jennifer was the All-American girl (last name Jones!) while Sarah is the shy, smart young lady from a broken home who is obsessed with Russia. 10-year-old Sarah comes up with the idea to write a letter to Soviet premier Andropov asking for peace between their countries. Jennifer writes one too, and her father sends them. Only Jennifer's letter is answered; she suddenly becomes the international poster child for a Cold War peace. When Sarah discovers the ultimate betrayal of her best friend, she struggles with the meaning of the action even after Jennifer's untimely death in a plane crash the following year. Ten years later, Sarah takes a pilgrimage to Russia to find answers to questions she may not even be sure she has.

I was beyond pleasantly surprised with this novel; I felt that I couldn't let it go after I finished. The story is told from Sarah's perspective of an adult looking back and telling her story which I found to be incredibly empathic even though I have not been through this type of betrayal. However, we all remember what it was like to be a middle schooler and the fluctuations of friendships that sometimes left us all alone. It was Sarah's recalling this childhood incident that helped me feel that I knew her character well. I remember what it was like to care deeply about a subject and a cause and to have that desire to do something. The betrayal of her best friend was almost too much to bear--it cost Sarah more than just acknowledgement, it cost her trust and long-lasting happiness.

The prose of this novel is really beautiful, honest and earnest toward telling Sarah's story with pathos, love, and care. I enjoyed the second part of the novel when Sarah actually goes to Russia to seek answers to questions about her friendship with Jennifer, about her friend's untimely death, and why this couldn't be her. I loved living in this book in the time I spent with it, and I believe you will, too.

Hard copy on right.

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