The story is set in the mid-21st century. Friday, going by the name Marjorie, has joined a free-love sort of family in New Zealand. Since they're uninhibited about sexuality, Friday doesn't expect them to have other hangups.
The family includes Anita, who's in charge; Vickie; and Anita's daughter Ellen. Ellen has done something disgraceful and Marj (Friday) asks Vickie what she did:
"Uh, he's a Tongan. Or did you know?"
"Certainly I knew. But 'Tongan' is not a disease. And it's Ellen's business. Her problem, if it is one. I can't see that it is."
"Uh, Anita has handled it badly. Once it's done, the only thing to do is to put the best face on it possible. But a mixed marriage is always unfortunate, I think—especially if the girl is the one marrying below herself, as in Ellen's case."
"'Below herself!' All I've been told is that he's a Tongan. Tongans are tall, handsome, hospitable, and about as brown as I am. In appearance they can't be distinguished from Maori. What if this young man had been Maori . . . of good family, from an early canoe . . . and lots of land?"
"Truly, I don't think Anita would have liked it, Marj—but she would have gone to the wedding and given the reception. Intermarriage with Maori has long precedent behind it; one must accept it. But one need not like it. Mixing the races is always a bad idea."
(Vickie, Vickie, do you know of a better idea for getting the world out of the mess it is in?) "So? Vickie, this built-in suntan of mine—you know where I got it?"
"Certainly, you told us. Amerindian. Uh, Cherokee, you said. Marj! Did I hurt your feelings? Oh, dear! It's not like that at all! Everybody knows that Amerindians are— Well, just like white people. Every bit as good."
(Oh, sure, sure! And "some of my best friends are Jews." But I'm not Cherokee, so far as I know. Dear little Vickie, what would you think if I told you that I am an AP? I'm tempted to . . . but I must not shock you.)
"No, because I considered the source. You don't know any better. You've never been anywhere and you probably soaked up racism with your mother's milk."
Vickie turned red. "That's most unfair! Marj, when you were up for membership in the family I stuck up for you. I voted for you."
"I was under the impression that everyone had. Or I would not have joined. Do I understand that my Cherokee blood was an issue in that discussion?"
"Well . . . it was mentioned."
"By whom and to what effect?"
"Uh— Marjie, those are executive sessions, they have to be. I can't talk about them."
It's not clear why Friday told the family she was Cherokee if she didn't think she was. But her boss later confirms that she is part Indian:
"Finnish, Polynesian, Amerindian, Inuit, Danish, red Irish, Swazi, Korean, German, Hindu, English--and bits and pieces from elsewhere since none of the above are pure."
A few thoughts on this:
Alas, this subplot is interesting but unrealistic. It's like a textbook that gives you a case study of racism without any of the flesh-and-blood messiness.
As for the rest of the book, Heinlein has some interesting ideas about the future, but his view of women is misogynist. Moreover, as two Amazon.com critics put it, "the secret-agent intrigue peters out partway through" and "the main story meanders around pointlessly for over half the book." Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.
For more on the subject, see No Natives in Science Fiction? and The Best Indian Books.
Below: Friday the brown-skinned Cherokee...
...and the Tongans she supposedly resembles.