Saturday, September 28, 2013

Still Life With Robin: You Are One of Them (A Cleveland Parker, That Is)

by Peggy Robin

Today's column is a book review: I am writing to recommend a charming and often touching novel called You Are One of Them, by Elliott Holt, who, like her main character, grew up in Washington, DC, and specifically in Cleveland Park. If the novel did not make loving use of so many fine points of a childhood set in Cleveland Park, I am sure I would still be recommending it but almost certainly just by mentioning it conversationally to any friends and family members who happen to ask me what I've read lately. But as I write in this column about the odd little surprises of daily life, it seems to me an odd --and delightful-- little surprise to pick up a book brought to my attention by a glowing New York Times review, and discover, a chapter or two into it, that the narrator is walking along Lowell Street, hiding notes in the stone wall of the Bishop's Garden of the National Cathedral, hanging out at the Cleveland Park Club, and admiring the turrets of the Queen Anne style house where her new best friend lives. After naming so many neighborhood landmarks in her book, I figure the author has earned a plug in our neighborhood's landmark listserv.

I won't tell you much more about the book except its basic premise: it's a fictionalized version of the Samantha Smith story, which, if you are not old enough to remember, sprang into motion in 1982 after a 10-year-old American girl wrote a letter to the then-leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, worrying about the prospects for nuclear war, and he answered her with some reassurances about his desire to keep peace, followed by an invitation to her and her family to our the USSR as his guests. It's helpful, but not strictly necessary, to review the real girl's life before jumping into the story of the novelist's re-imagined child, renamed Jennifer Jones. You can Wikipedia it at

For more about the author, including more book reviews and some interviews, go to the author's web site:


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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