A friendship between two women, forged during the tumult of 1968, is tested, torn and reaffirmed over the course of their very different lives.
Georgette George, a shy freshman scholarship student at Barnard, doesn’t know what to make of privileged, idealistic Ann Drayton. A firebrand for racial and social justice, Ann asked for a roommate “as different as possible” from her, in hope of bunking with a black woman, but accepts George, who is white, because at least she is from a poor home in upstate New York. The other freshmen find Ann a puzzle, too, and George befriends her initially because no one else—black or white—does. Over time, this headstrong self-made martyr, who gives away money by the fistful and lectures her bewildered parents on the sins of being white and rich, wins her heart, until Ann’s righteousness causes an irreconcilable rift. Long after the two go their separate ways—Ann continues her activism in Harlem with her black schoolteacher lover; George works her way up the masthead at a fashion magazine—Ann is arrested for killing a police officer. Although they haven’t spoken in years, George knows there is much more to the story than the newspapers report. Ann, who refuses all help, is convicted of murder and sentenced to life. George cannot begin to comprehend what has befallen her friend until she runs into Ann’s patrician father, recently widowed. In perhaps the ultimate betrayal, but perhaps also the only way to connect with the inscrutable Ann, they have an affair, which, especially as portrayed by the philosophically adroit Nunez (For Rouenna, 2001), eventually helps George understand that friendships have many chapters, and that Ann, who works on prison reform from the inside despite the wrath of her fellow inmates who won’t trust a white woman, just may not have closed the book on George yet.
A masterful construction of the troubled conscience of the era and its aftermath.