Nunez’s novel tells the story of two complex women, opposites in every way, who meet as college roommates and whose lives intertwine for decades.
Privileged, wealthy Ann despises her upper crust family and upbringing and devotes herself to romanticizing the underprivileged class. Georgette comes from the underprivileged and is determined to escape the barren life that is her heritage. In 1968, the two are thrown together as freshmen at Barnard College; revolution pulses through the dorm and in the streets of uptown Manhattan that surround the school; it courses through Ann’s veins and floats out into the world on an endless stream of cigarette smoke. Ann is furious at her parents, furious at the world and fanatically devoted to “George” whom she seeks to indoctrinate into the ways of the proletariat and save from the middle class respectability her new friend covets. George, while idolizing Ann, has more pragmatic concerns; how to get a job; how to rescue her younger sister from heroin, how to ensure the family has food on the table when her mother is laid off from her job at the local nursing home.
For those who lived the angst and introspection of the 60s, The Last of Her Kind unfolds like a roadmap through time and memory. Ann takes up with a black man. Ann commits a horrible crime and is sent to prison. Georgette moves on but never far enough away to forget Ann or to break the tie that binds her to the woman she never understood, always admired and eventually pitied. For those too young to recall that turbulent era, the book serves as a primer to the great divide between the haves and the have-nots in a country that labels people as equal.