Elliott Holt’s searing novel You are One of Them reads like a mystery, but there are very few tropes from a traditional mystery.
Instead, Sarah Zuckerman’s attempt to track down her former best friend Jennifer Jones, thought to be dead for twenty years, lightens the tone with the revelation that sometimes the truth, (or the big reveal of the mystery) must remain hidden. There is no need to drudge up the past, and instead, we should focus mainly on the future.
Along the way, there is a section I enjoyed about marketing soda, which reminded me strongly of Syrup by Maxx Barry, but perhaps even more cynical. There is also some real dark humour to be found in the narrator’s voice. She is somewhat pathetic, but I found that quality made the story, (and the search), more welcome.
There is an obsessive element running through You Are One of Them, played more effectively than in The Other Typist, and offering a peek into post-Soviet Russia that tears down walls without ripping up the foundation.
I often cringed at the lack of authority encountered in You are One of Them, but the narrator herself lacks authority as well. She steps into the past, and finds only the future.
The mystery is why this book has not been more embraced, but I imagine that there is a coldness running throughout You Are One of Them that turns off the more delicate readers. Perhaps they do not want to be one of them, but I certainly did.