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The Last of Her Kindby Sigrid Nunez
Reading Group Guide
1. The Last of Her Kind is partly about the special bond that can form between young people who meet when they leave home for college. In what ways is the relationship between Georgette George and Ann Drayton typical of such friendships? In what ways is it different? Are there characteristics about it that seem to you to belong specifically to friendships between women? How well do you feel Georgette and Ann understand each other as friends?
2. Issues of race and class are major themes in this novel. As you read about the big fight that ends Georgette and Anns friendship, did you find yourself taking sides? Do you believe, as Ann does, that Georgettes comment about Kwames blue eyes is racist? Does this final rupture seem inevitable to you, or do you see a way the friendship could have been saved?
3. After Anns murder trial, one juror remarks: "She just did not seem to like white folks." What is your view of Anns obsession with "white skin privilege," and how has it shaped her life? What do you think her parents could have done to help her come to terms with her burden of guilt as she was growing up? What would you say they did wrong?
4. When Georgette is raped, she deals with it in a way that is described as not unusual for the era, the late sixties, in which it occurred. Years later, when she talks about that experience to a group of young women, they appear shocked by her attitude and suggest that shes in denial about the violence done to her. What is your assessment of Georgettes behavior at the time of the rape and later, when she looks back on it?
5. Consider the attorney Lester Prysocks arguments in Anns defense. How forceful do you find them? How persuasive do you think he is when he uses Anns childhood to explain aspects of her adult behavior? According to Georgettes friend Cleo, Ann "just wanted to kill someone." Do you believe this? How persuasive do you find the defenses argument about the role of "the N word" in this crime?
6. Georgette insists that its wrong to compare Ann with Patty Hearst, as so many people in the novel do. Why does Ann herself vehemently reject the comparison? How do you imagine she would distinguish herself from Hearst or from other political radicals, such as the Weathermen? What does she have in common with such people?
7. It is undeniable that Ann was in an extremely difficult position when she shot at the police officers. Can you imagine how you might have felt in her place? What do you think would have been the right thing to do? Can there be any justification for the shooting? Do you think the punishment Ann receives is just? How does Anns prison mates story help illuminate the mystery of Anns extraordinary character?
8. Georgette speaks of her guilt at having turned her back on her home and family. Is this guilt justified? Under what circumstances do you think a person is justified in abandoning his or her family? Do you think Georgette sees her own past clearly? How do you see Georgettes relationship with her sister, Solange?
9. Do you think Turner and Georgette have a moral obligation to tell Ann about their love affair? How do you view Turners reasons for leaving Georgette and the way he goes about it?
10. Anns life story has been described as "tragicomic." What do you think this means? Many people would say that she had ruined or wasted her life. Do you agree? Discuss the ways the various characters in the novel set about searching to make "a good life" for themselves. How does each one define this goal? Which characters seem to you to have been most successful in finding what they were looking for?
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