You Are One of Them is a powerful novel of friendship, loss and deception, set in the heart of the Cold War: 1980's Washington, and the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union: Moscow in the 1990's. The crux of the novel is based loosely on the true tale of young Samantha Smith whose letter to Yuri Andropov led to an invitation to visit the USSR as an ambassador for peace, and her tragic death in a plane crash soon thereafter.
In You Are One of Them best friends Sarah Zuckerman and Jennifer Jones write letters to Andropov, but only Jennifer's letter is acknowledged by him. Following a whirlwind tour of the Soviet Union and the subsequent American media frenzy, Jennifer and her parent's die in a fiery plane crash. Or do they? Sarah has lost a sister to meningitis, a father to a second wife and family in England, a mother to her depression and obsession with the threat of nuclear war, and now her best friend. Or has she? A mysterious tip years after the plane crash leads Sarah to Moscow in an effort to uncover the truth about Jennifer and her family. Elliott Holt's compelling debut looks at the Cold War and its aftermath through the eyes of its survivors, and at the same time offers a deep and honest look at many kinds of kinship and loyalty.
Holt captures the character of both Washington and Moscow, cities intrinsic to the fates of her complicated and often enigmatic characters. Her end result is a very entertaining and thought provoking novel. And now I can't help wondering: Did we really land on the moon?