The Last of Her Kind – by Sigrid Nunez – book review

If you’re a baby boomer, here’s a novel with plenty of nostalgia, centered on two college roommates who meet at Barnard College in New York City in 1968. You may even recognize both types among people you knew back then. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

Ann is a super-sensitive, politically active child of wealth, who abhors her family’s privilege and believes her parents should give all their money away to the needy. Georgette comes from an impoverished, dysfunctional home with an abusive mother and absent father. Nevertheless, they eventually become close friends who remain in touch, off and on, for decades.

I don’t want to give away the plot, so I will just say there are several marriages and affairs explored. A lot about the politics and protests of the era. A younger sister who runs away from home. A couple of children. And one serious crime.

Unfortunately, I liked this novel more during the first half — when the book focuses on the relationship between the two roommates — and less in the second half, when lots of attention is paid to the lives of other characters. Georgette serves as the main narrator and it’s from her perspective that the reader learns most about all the other characters. Though not exclusively.

This is one of those books where I felt the structure and some of the writing techniques detracted from the story. The book is chunked into seven distinct parts and as I began each section, I found the author too often writing in a way that kept me from knowing who was “speaking” and who that person was speaking about. (Admittedly this is a writing device that is a particular pet peeve of mine; any time authors intentionally obscure information. When I am in the middle of a story, I prefer that it not get interrupted by a nonsensical writing technique.) And then, in the final section, a brand new character is introduced, which felt jarring.

Overall, I felt the plot was interesting and the relationship between the two women worth exploring, but the execution somewhat disjointed.

Sigrid Nunez

This is an author, who has been writing for decades, though only recently started getting attention. If you have a subscription, you might be interested in reading the New York Times profile of the author, Sigrid Nunez, who won the 2018 National Book Award for her bestselling novel, The Friend. Or perhaps you’d like to read the biography that appears on her Website.