The Last of Her Kind

a novel, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. January 2006/Picador.
January 2007

Ann Drayton and Georgette George meet as freshman roommates at Barnard College in 1968. Ann, who comes from a wealthy New England family, is brilliant and idealistic. Georgette, who comes from a bleak town in upstate New York, is mystified by Ann’s romanticization of the underprivileged class, which Georgette herself is hoping college will enable her to escape. An intense and difficult friendship is born. Years after a fight ends their friendship, Ann is convicted of a violent crime. As Georgette struggles to understand what has happened, she is led back to their shared history and to an examination of the revolutionary era in which the two women came of age.

Editor’s Choice:
The New York Times
The San Francisco Chronicle
Entertainment Weekly

One of the 25 Best Books
of 2006:

The Village Voice

A Best Book of 2006:
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Christian Science Monitor
The Globe and Mail

Praise for The Last of her Kind

“[A] carefully written and discerning narrative with closely drawn portraits of two prototypical yet unique women trying to construct a friendship across an unbridgeable class divide…. [T]he historical events, both real and invented … give Nunez’s story tragic dimensions…. Nunez’s keen powers of observation make her a natural chronicler.” — Editor’s Choice, New York Times Book Review

“[A] near-perfect depiction of what it was like to be young, smart and female in a pivotal time in U.S. history.”
— Sara Nelson, Best Books of 2006, The Globe and Mail

“A complex, well-told tale.” — People

The Last of Her Kind is full of incident and high drama … it is, above all, about the way women communicate and interpret their experience, bearing down on every nuance, irony, anguished interchange and heartbreaking loss…. [A]n unflinching examination of justice, race and political idealism that brings to mind Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” and the tenacious intelligence of Nadine Gordimer.” — The New York Times

“Every so often you close a book and the only word that comes to mind is ‘wow.’ This … is such a work…. Rich in historical detail, this unpredictable novel zeroes in on what it means to renounce class privilege and sacrifice oneself in the service of human betterment. Stunningly powerful.” — Library Journal

“[S]uch questions as what it means to be American, whether hate and rage are useful tools and whether we can correct mistakes of previous generations engage us throughout.” — Los Angeles Times

“In previous works, Nunez has proved herself a master of psychological acuity. Here her ambitions are grander, and the result is a remarkable and disconcerting vision of a troubled time in American history, and of its repercussions for national and individual identity.” — The New Yorker

“Nunez is refreshingly critical of her characters, never overly harsh, exposing both the dark side and romanticism of the era.”  4 Stars, New York Post

“[R]emarkable … we know immediately we are in the hands of a major talent able to open up a complex history for us…. [Nunez’s] gift is wild and large.” — Editor’s Choice, San Francisco Chronicle

“Nunez’s novel performs so well, with such unobtrusive mastery, that when the true scope of its accomplishment begins to make itself known it is quietly astonishing.” — Baltimore City Paper

“In this riveting novel, Nunez captures the very heart of the tuned-in and turned-on generation, baring both the idealism and polarization that accompanied its political turmoil…. [A] mesmerizing story of breathtaking sweep and intricate detail, without sentimentality, full of the patterns, leitmotifs and turning points of a generation.”
— Ms. Magazine

“When Georgette George and Ann Drayton meet in 1968 as freshmen roommates at Barnard College, Georgette marvels that her privileged, brilliant roommate envies Georgette’s rough, impoverished childhood. Through the vehicle of this fascinating friendship, Nunez’s sophisticated new novel (after For Rouenna) explores the dark side of the countercultural idealism that swept the country in the 1960s. Hyperbolic even for the times, Ann’s passionate commitment to her beliefs—unwavering despite the resentment from those she tries to help—haunts Georgette, the novel’s narrator, long after the women’s lives diverge. In 1976, Ann lands in prison for shooting and killing a policeman in a misguided attempt to rescue her activist black boyfriend from a confrontation. The novel’s generous structure also gracefully encompasses the story of Georgette’s more conventional adult life in New York (she becomes a magazine editor, marries, and bears two children), plus that of Georgette’s runaway junkie sister. Nunez reveals Ann’s life in prison via a moving essay by one of her fellow inmates. By the end of this novel—propelled by rich, almost scholarly prose—all the parts come together to capture the violent idealism of the times while illuminating a moving truth about human nature.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review (10/10/05)

“A friendship between two women, forged during the tumult of 1968, is tested, torn, and reaffirmed over the course of their very different lives…. A masterful construction of the troubled conscience of the era and its aftermath.” — Kirkus Reviews (11/01/05)

“Nunez moves far past the obvious clichés about activism to show a character who, while not always completely sympathetic, is nonetheless multifaceted and three-dimensional….[T]his engrossing, beautiful novel will enthrall readers.” — Booklist, starred review (1/2006)

“Nunez’s piercing intelligence and post-feminist consciousness may well feel that writing the Great American novel is no longer a feasible or worthwhile goal—but damned if she hasn’t gone and done it anyway…. [The book] blossoms into a powerful and acute social novel, perhaps the finest yet written about that peculiar generation of young Americans who believed their destiny was to shape history…. This book is of course fiction, but it has more truth in it, more compassion, and more revelation, than all the confessional memoirs spewed up by all the self-aggrandizing idiots of the last decade. Don’t miss it.” — Andrew O’Hehir,

“A passionate honesty grips the heart of The Last of Her Kind, [a] subtle and profoundly moving novel about friendship, romantic idealism, and shame.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

“Full of passion and fire, Nunez’s novel is more about class and privilege than revolution, and it’s full of breathtaking literary acrobatics. She effortlessly zips in and out of her characters’ lives, and at one point brilliantly narrates a whole chapter from the point of view of a prison inmate.” — From “A Reading Life” (The Boston Globe), by Caroline Leavitt

“Decades from now historians would do well to consult this book to get a true sense of how the upheavals of the late 1960s reverberated through the lives of young Americans, from one who experienced this social earthquake firsthand.” — Baltimore Sun

“Nunez does a fine job of characterizing young people, then, now, and probably forever…. Since good fiction, to quote John Updike, furnishes ‘dramatized tensions, not settled conclusions,’ this vivid novel’s quest yields only the impassioned record of two complexly lived lives, which is satisfying enough.” — Chicago Tribune

“[E]xcellent…. Nunez is as unstinting in her detailed rendering of the idealistic ’60s and their dark afermath as she is of the worsening conditions in America’s prisons.”  Christian Science Monitor

“… a touching, well-written story about ’60s idealism that challenges the current slickness in ads that sell Woodstock and such to baby boomers.”  BUST

“[A] wonderful panoramic of the landscape of the times. Nunez does such a good job of decoding and explaining the ’70s that this book should be taught in high-school classrooms.” — Brooklyn Rail

“[A]n honors-level survey course in the sexual, political, and cultural movements that shaped the thinking (and rocked the world) of so many boomer women. Nunez’s voice is unflinching and intimate, her novelistic structure as invitingly informal as jottings in a journal…” — Editor’s Choice, Entertainment Weekly

“The narrative style is … clear and affecting … capturing the viewpoints and inflections of various characters without losing its compelling intensity. What is most striking … is [the novel’s] strongly imagined portrait of the 1960s….. [Nunez] takes us beneath the surface to the essential mysteries of the human heart.”  The Wall Street Journal

“Nunez’s … most powerful novel.” — Time Out New York

“[A] brilliant, dazzling, daring novel. Nunez has taken the old American Dream and stood it on its head…. This novel will make you rethink “Gatsby” and its reputation as the great masterpiece of American literature—no small feat.” — Boston Globe

“In Sigrid Nunez’s idiosyncratic, provocative and sublimely confident new novel … history and fiction are intermingled in a fable it would be unwise to ignore. In this precise meditation on race, class, drugs, the haunting power of friends and family members, and the hazards of loyalty and privilege, Nunez takes apart the story of a kind of life in the 1960s like a still-live mine.” — Newsday

“[D]enser than Nunez’s previous books, but no less intimate in its approach to memory and the past…. Nunez’s crusading heroine feels entirely plausible, both a real, singular person and a product of her times…. But it’s the lovingly etched details that make this novel hum.” — The Village Voice

“There is much to admire … 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.” — Kansas City Star

“Nunez is adept at capturing subtle frictions in the interactions between class, race and gender… [She] writes with sophisticated insight.” — Seattle Times

“[Nunez’s] compelling characterizations and subtle touch with period detail make this an engrossing and believable story. [Her] writing is rich and subtly textured.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

“In The Last of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez uncovers the sixties’ dirtiest dirty little secret: class. This is an irresistible read for anyone who lived through the period, or who understands its importance for who we are and how we know ourselves as Americans.” — Mary Gordon

“In The Last of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez once again creates characters of such depth and situations of such vivid moral complexity that reading these pages is like living them. Only as I closed the book did I sadly realize that Georgette and Ann weren’t my neighbors. But happily I can revisit them again, and again, in this beautiful and absorbing novel.” — Margot Livesey

“Thoughtful, soulful, and painfully honest, Sigrid Nunez brilliantly reimagines the late sixties and their liberating yet scathing idealism. The Last of Her Kind is an intimate, rich, eventful, perfectly balanced romance of two mismatched friends and their unsentimental educations.” — Stewart O’ Nan