Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Girls

"The Girls" by Lori Lansens
368 pages
Published April 2007 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: Bought this one to read with my book club

Rose and Ruby--twins born to a frightened teenage mother who disappears from the hospital shortly after their birth.  Adopted by the nurse who helped deliver them and her husband, Lovey and Stash Darlen.  Raised in a rural Ontario community where they are known simply as "the girls."  At 29, Rose has decided to write her autobiography and both girls are hoping to survive to their 30th birthday.  What makes them special?  Ruby and Rose are the longest-living craniopagus twins, twins who are joined at the head. For Ruby and Rose, that means that they have hundreds of veins in common that make it impossible to separate them.
"I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially."
  Although they are twins, the twins are as different as can be, their physical appearance as well as their personalities.  Ruby is the pretty one but her body did not develop to normal proportions and she must be carried all of the time by Rose.  Rose has normal proportions but her face to stretched to reach the point where the girls heads are conjoined and has the weight of carrying her sister for so many years begins to take its toll, one of Rose's legs has shortened.
"Ruby is my sister.  And, undeniably, my child."
 Rose likes baseball and always wished to be a writer.  Ruby loves trashy television has a passion for collecting Indian artifacts she finds on the farm.  Rose had wanted to go to college but Ruby didn't want to--one of the many compromises the girls have had to make in their lives due to their unique situation.  But in so many ways they are very normal--they've attended school, hold part-time jobs, and built a network of friends. 

The story is told from both girl's perspectives.  Rose is the primary narrator but Ruby has reluctantly agreed to write some chapters to be included.  Because of the way the girls are attached, neither can see what the other is writing.  Rose is introspective, Ruby is outspoken--the one to drop the bombshells.  Since each doesn't know what the other has written, they are often writing about the same thing which really points up their very distinctive voices.

Lansens has crafted two marvelous characters that I will not soon forget.  It was often hard to remember that the twins are conjoined, their points of view are often so different and their lives so very much their own.  But my favorite characters were Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash who loved the girls unconditionally and had a wonderful relationship with each other.

This was my book club selection for October and I need to thank Mari for bringing it to the club's attention.  A huge thank you to Lori Lansens for speaking with us about the book.  It was interesting to learn about the development of the book--Lansens' interest in conjoined twins, her husband's Slovakian ancestry, and the way she felt attached to her own children when they were born.  I wanted to know about how girls' different personalities.  Lori told us that her husband says that they are the two separate sides of her.  Like so many authors that we talk to, Lori says that writing is a job that she works at everyday while her kids are at school.  We asked if she was working on anything new and she said that she is but that she never talks about the books that she's working on.  I'm looking forward to reading it when ever it's done but in the mean time, I'm going to be picking up her other books.


  1. I like the story behind this book. Would dearly love to read this.

  2. Great review, Lisa! My Mom read this one awhile back and she really liked it. It sounded sad by the way she described it and I'm not one for deliberately picking up sad books, but I may make an exception with this one.

  3. Wow, I thought twins thought alike and all that.. bad thinking I know. Sounds like a very good read, great review. It is so good to be able to talk to the author as well.

  4. I hope to enjoy this one soon Lisa. I loved The Wife's Tale.

  5. Wow! Lisa, I love your review of this book. Its made me want to rush out and pick up a copy of this book, which truly sounds like such a wonderful read. The quotes you included sucked me in and well now I have to find out what happens to the twins. I'm so glad you wrote about this book, because I never would have heard of it. Thanks!

  6. I have had this book on my shelf for the longest time, and am glad to see that you gave it such a great review! I think it sounds like an excellent story and one that I should try to pick up soon!

  7. I commented on Mari's post that I wasn't even aware that this was a book about conjoined twins. I feel like such a dope. I sort of dismissed it because it looks girly and chick lit-ish. I may have to revisit it.

  8. I read The Wife's Tale last year and loved it and really want to read this book after your review!

  9. Great post Lisa! It was a wonderful book and until reading this one I hadn't taken too much time to think about the personalities and challenges and how this might impact their life (shame on me).

    I'm so glad you had a great conversation. Lori is wonderful!

  10. I've never even heard of this one until your awesome review. I want to read it!

  11. Yes, I read this one a year or maybe two a go. I thought it was interesting and funny and sad all in one. It was little weird too, but a rather unique story. I recommend it.

  12. A co-worker gave me a copy of this book, but I haven't read it yet. Glad to see you really liked it.