three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
By: 
Sigrid Nunez
user_rating: 
0

A-TheLastOfHerKindGeorgette and Ann couldn’t differ more. From a hardscrabble childhood, Georgette wins a scholarship to Barnard College. Ann, by contrast, wants to erase her privileged, socialite upbringing—still, Barnard is her due. They become fast friends as freshman roommates in 1968. Narrated from their freshman year to the present by Georgette, their friendship, bound by idealism, endures wild ups and downs—for a while. Ann, in an attempt to defend her activist black boyfriend, is convicted of murder. Georgette embraces a more traditional life. As they journey along disparate paths, Georgette realizes Ann’s lasting influence on her life.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 384 pages. $25. ISBN: 0374183813

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"In chronicling the lifelong relationship that ensues between the two—sometimes as closest friends, sometimes as critics of each other’s trial-and-error experiments in idealism—Sigrid Nunez teaches an honors-level survey course in the sexual, political, and cultural movements that shaped the thinking (and rocked the world) of so many boomer women." Lisa Schwarzbaum

Newsday 4 of 5 Stars
"One of the best things about this deeply intelligent novel is its direct confrontation of the truth that family, like trauma, close friendship, and overpowering love, never really leaves us. … What Nunez is aiming at, and achieves, is a document of an era through characters who begin to seem like historical icons whose names we should remember." Emily Gordon

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"[Nunez] is far more interested in showing how individual lives are shaped by politics than in trying to explain how politics shapes the course of history." Merle Rubin

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While Nunez’s story rambles in places and takes detours that detract somewhat from the theme of how two college roommates will forever be connected, her compelling characterizations and subtle touch with period detail make this an engrossing and believable story." Cherie Parker

Kansas City Star 3 of 5 Stars
"There’s much to admire here: incisive analysis about class, race, and the prison system, authoritative writing about the late ’60s cultural landscape and lots of recognizable cultural markers of the time. But the narrator refers to the era as ‘a terrible time,’ and for some readers, that judgment may be too reductive." Jeffrey Ann Goudie

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"First of all, readers should know that while The Last of Her Kind is a novel, it reads like a memoir. … Nunez does disappointingly little to explore how Georgette’s eventual motherhood affects the way she remembers things and relates them." Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Critical Summary

Nunez explores idealism against the backdrop of gender, racial, and cultural politics. Many critics thought this "strongly imagined portrait of the 1960s" the novel’s "most striking" aspect (Wall Street Journal). A few, however, criticized Nunez for overemphasizing the turbulence of the period, casting judgment on it, and describing its madness—drug-induced hallucinations, for example—in unnecessary detail. The value of certain subplots, including one involving Georgette’s runaway hippie sister, also raised a few eyebrows. Yet all agreed that the novel offers gripping characterizations and an intelligent, provocative look at the lasting influencing of friendship.