Last of Her Kind

The Last of Her Kind

by Sigrid Nunez

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez. Near the end of The Last of Her Kind is a quote from Rilke, “Rich in memory are those places from the past that can never be revisited.” I did some traveling on those long gone pathways while reading this book, although probably not for the reason the author intended. When I read this book I thought a lot about my best friend. The narrator shares a name with my old long-gone friend, an unusual thing in that there are not so many girls named George (never Georgina, not if you wanted to stay friends). So I couldn’t help but remember my girl George.

This book is not only about the friends you have that last your lifetime, or don’t, but also about the American experience in the 60’s and 70’s — a time I can barely remember — and a hard look at race, guilt, class and how we grow up and shake our heads at our younger selves. Can you grow up and maintain your purity, your innocence, your beliefs? Or do the things that seem earth-shattering at 20 always seem sort of silly at 40? How old do you have to be to stop being mortified by your own behavior?

George and I were best friends by the time we were out of our teens. She was perfect — so beautiful! So clever! She was a model, a talented actress, and always had the handsomest boyfriends. I knew they weren’t quite good enough for her, though, and whenever a guy broke her heart, I always thought “How could they ever leave her? Why don’t they see her like I do?” Although I have to add that we were just friends, it seems ridiculous to compare our friendship to the parade of men and boys we dated.  We spent our late 80’s nights out dancing at the hippest gay clubs in Fort Lauderdale — we hated when the boys bothered us.

We were those girls, inseparable.

George and I lived together (in Key West — I guess that really put an end to the ‘gay’ rumors!) and quickly fell into a slough of bad habits — my laziness and her restlessness, my bad judgment and her — well, I guess hers was just as bad. Our live-in boyfriends worked very nicely as chess pieces in our escalating grudge match. When I moved out I thought our friendship had been saved, and it did linger on life support for several more years.

When George broke my heart, it wasn’t a fight, we didn’t have words, as they say, but clearly, our roles had changed. I was no longer her foil and her co-star. The last time I saw her I was on vacation, visiting Key West with my new fiancé. I so wanted him to meet her — I wanted him to see her the way I did. But she was distracted and maybe even a little bored. She had other friends, new friends, better ones. I left town, but anyone could tell — she left me.

I have other friends now. Better ones? It’s hard to compare. No one else saw me like she did.

The Last of Her Kind is not about two women who maintain a friendship over the years — through thick and thin — but it is about two women and the choices they make, and the paths they take. George is from the wrong side of tracks; Ann is a child of enormous wealth. They meet when Ann requests a poor roommate at college. She is expecting a black woman to show up, but she gets George. Ann spends the better part of the novel railing against social injustice, specifically white privilege, and more specifically her parents. It’s the 60’s, so Ann’s passionate devotion to civil rights seems idealistic and new, not the cynical equivalent of adopting an African baby. We also meet George’s wayward sister, flower child Solange, who personifies the excess, the naiveté and the selfishness of the era. (It starts with free love and getting high, and ends in the psych ward.)

As the years go by, George grows up, changes, evolves. Ann sticks to her principles, which can be boiled down to she doesn’t like white people, and she really doesn’t like her wealthy parents. The two women have a bitter argument and don’t speak for years, until Ann is accused of a violent and sensational crime and George has to walk down that pathway of memory and revisit those places that no longer exist.

It’s hard for me to say “I loved this book” or “I really felt like I understood the characters” because a lot of emotional mud got stirred into the clear water. So let me say I’m glad I read it and glad I spent some time back there. And I miss you, George.

The Last of Her Kind is by Sigrid Nunez. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez.

Reading this novel, about two very different women and the paths their lives take, I couldn’t help but think about some of my old friends, and wonder where they are today, so I guess on an emotional level, this one really affected me. It’s a beautifully written story, narrated by George, a young woman who grew up in the middle of the Age of Aquarius, when civil rights and social justice was the story of the day. The Last of Her Kind is also the story of her college roommate Ann, the daughter of privilege, who turned her back on her wealthy family and committed a violent crime. Although their lives went in different directions, they never entirely separated. It’s as intimate as the story of a friendship and big enough to say, it’s about American women. The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez.

The story of America in the 60’s is really still being written, it only seems like a long time ago. It’s hard for some of us now to think that people had lives while all that stuff was going on around them. This book is about two women — friends for a while — who were part of the civil and social revolution, and also had jobs and boyfriends, whose lives took very different paths. George, from a desperately poor family, longs for stability, and tries to deal with her damaged, flower child sister. Ann loathes her wealthy family and dedicates herself to helping the poor. When Ann commits a violent crime, George has to confront the choices she’s made. The Last of Her Kind moves back and forth between decades, narrators, and styles; it’s enormously well done. It made me think a lot about my friends and my own choices. That’s a lot for a book to offer. The Last of Her Kind is by Sigrid Nunez. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez.

When I picked this one up, I thought it might be a little homework-y. The topic — two women coming of age during the social upheaval of the 60s — is a serious one, and one of the women commits a violent crime. The subject is serious, but the book is fascinating, and honestly, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a period I barely remember, and the author does a fine job of showing how life went on side by side with Woodstock, Altamonte, Patty Hearst: it wasn’t history back then, after all. The Last of Her Kind talks about the kind of friendship that may not last forever, and the kind of friends that you never stop thinking about. The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.


Buy this book from Amazon.com