Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Last of Her Kind.
Female friendship is one of the most complicated relationships out there. One minute, you hate each other; the next you’re thick as thieves. Then, as quickly as it started, the friendship can evaporate. It may sound stereotypical and clichéd, but female friendship is mercurial by its very nature. Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind focuses on a particularly complex bond between two women – college roommates Georgette George and Dooley “Ann” Drayton.
When the book starts, we learn from Georgette, the narrator, that Ann specifically asked for a roommate from a different class background than herself. Ann, you see, is a rich, privileged girl. She
is a very specific kind of rich, privileged girl, though – the kind who is ashamed of her status in life. As was typical of the 1960s, when the book opens, Ann feels that her social status makes her part of the oppressor class that has made the world such a mess.
To rebel against this background, she tries to bond with Georgette, a girl from a poor, dysfunctional family in upstate New York. When the girls are first thrown together at Barnard College, Georgette is so offended by Ann’s idealization of the poor that she vows to despise her new roommate. But she softens, and the two soon become friends.
Yet Georgette is still somewhat befuddled by Ann and her ceaseless rejection of everything
she grew up with – including her parents – and her tireless commitment to social activism. Eventually, the chasm between the two girls grows, and the friendship tears apart after a huge argument.
The book picks up a few years later, when Ann is arrested and Georgette is forced to confront this woman’s role in her life.
A lot of other stuff is going on here – Georgette’s relationship with her mentally ill runaway sister, for one thing – but it all comes down to this charged relationship between these two vastly different girls.
Nunez deals a lot with the culture of the 1960s in every way – drugs, activism, rock ‘n’ roll and free love all play a part – but
that is more of a backdrop. At its heart, this is a story about women and the strange ways they relate to one another. As such, it’s compelling, smart and impossible to put down.