Elliott Holt’s You Are One of Them

You can read reviews extolling the virtues of this novel all over the place right now (like this one from the Boston Globe), and it’s already making local bookstore bestseller lists. I was interested to check the novel out fairly quickly, since based on what I’d read of the story, it is, like my novel, about traveling elsewhere to work through grief and uncover something about the person/people you’ve lost, and your own identity in relation to that person. (Whew, that was awkward – there must be an actual name for this genre, right?)

More simply put, You Are One of Them is “a bildungsroman for the atomic age,” says Lauren Groff.  The novel tells the story of Sarah, who, after college, follows the mystery of what happened to her childhood best friend, Jenny, after she had allegedly died in a plane crash when the girls were ten. It’s 1995 and Sarah has received a mysterious email from one Svetlana, teasingly suggesting that Jenny is alive and living in Moscow. Sarah goes to Russia; interesting stuff ensues. That’s basically what I understood of the novel before I picked it up off the front display at The Book Table. I had one my book lover materialist moments, reveling in both the look and feel of the cover (the title and surrounding “burn mark” are set in relief): 


I was standing there, appreciatively running my fingers over the book jacket. The store was busy; Rachel was behind the counter, and she leaned around the customer she was chatting with to call to me, “Is that You Are One of Them?”

I nodded and smiled. “I’ve been hearing a ton about this book.”

Rachel nodded back, “I started it. It’s pretty great, from what I’ve read so far.”

“Ah, cool.” So then I opened the book, and the opening lines of the prologue had me hooked right away. Let’s see if it does the same thing for you:

“In Moscow I was always cold. I suppose that’s what Russia is known for. But it is winter to a degree I could not have imagined before I moved there. Winter not of the pristine, romantic Doctor Zhivago variety but a season so insistent and hateful that all hope freezes with your toes.”