cover image You Are One of Them

You Are One of Them

Elliott Holt. Penguin Press, $25.95 (292p) ISBN 978-1-59420-528-6

Fresh from college, adrift Washington, D.C., native Sarah Zuckerman heads to post–Cold War Moscow in search of clues about what happened to Jenny Jones, her childhood best friend. After she wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov asking for peace in 1982, when the girls were 10, Jenny was invited to the U.S.S.R. as a “peace ambassador” and became an international sensation. But three years later, she and her parents were killed in a plane crash—or so it seemed. In 1995, Sarah receives a letter from a Russian woman named Svetlana, who hints that Jenny might be alive. But once in drab, polluted Moscow, a “place of new money and ancient grudges,” Sarah worries that she’s being lied to and manipulated. Holt creates strong roots, both in 1980s America—with references to friendship pins, Casey Kasem, and the ever-persistent threat of nuclear war—and 1990s Moscow, where tracksuits and cigarettes are never far away. Telling details of Soviet oppression and Russia’s budding advertising industry paint a vivid portrait of a country testing the waters of democracy. Holt, who won a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction, writes with a pleasing, wry intelligence in this promising debut. Agent: Bill Clegg, WME Entertainment. (June)