Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Conjoined twins Rose and Ruby Darlen are linked at the side of the head, with separate brains and bodies. Born in a small town outside Toronto in the midst of a tornado and abandoned by their unwed teenage mother two weeks later, the girls are cared for by Aunt Lovey, a nurse who refuses to see them as deformed or even disabled. She raises them in Leaford, Ontario, where, at age 29, Rose, the more verbal and bookish twin, begins writing their story—i.e., this novel, which begins, "I have never looked into my sister's eyes." 

Showing both linguistic skill and a gift for observation, Lansens's Rose evokes country life, including descriptions of corn and crows, and their neighbors Mrs. Merkel, who lost her only son in the tornado, and Frankie Foyle, who takes the twins' virginity. Rose shares her darkest memory (public humiliation during a visit to their Slovakian-born Uncle Stash's hometown) and her deepest regret, while Ruby, the prettier, more practical twin, who writes at her sister's insistence, offers critical details, such as what prompted Rose to write their life story. 

Through their alternating narratives, Lansens captures a contradictory longing for independence and togetherness that transcends the book's enormous conceit. ~~synopsis from Publishers Weekly by way of Amazon.com

Rose has always wanted to be a writer, and as the novel opens, she begins to pen her autobiography. Here is how she begins:

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.

I have always been fascinated with 'Siamese' twins, as they used to be called, now referred to as conjoined twins. I remember reading about Chang and Eng when I was in grade school (long, long time ago). I am not really sure what it is about this topic that fascinates me so much. 

It is so interesting to me how 2 people that are permanently, and usually forever, joined with very distinct personalities, likes and dislike have to share in one another's life so completely. One small example of what I mean is, in the case of Rose and Ruby, one of the girls loves baseball while the other one doesn't. To have to share everything so completely is something that is hard for me to comprehend and I am amazed by it. But the twins don't know of life any other way so that is just the way it is for them.

The girls both have jobs but they are part time jobs so that they can each work at what they like to do. Ruby works in a library, reading stories to the children while Rose works at what she loves. So, again, this is an example of their separate lives that they have to live together. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Girls. It has been on my TBR list for quite awhile and I am glad that it finally rose to the top. The book is very well written and is written from 2 points of view with each of the sisters contributing to the autobiography that Rose feels she needs to write. The girls have very distinct writing styles and it is a wonderful way to maybe begin to understand how they function as separate people while really living as one. Sometimes I had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction and not actually an true autobiography. 


  1. I have this on my Nook. Your review has me very curious about it now. I have always wondered what it really is like for conjoined twins. I look forward to reading even more after reading your review.

  2. Yep, this sounds amazing. It's also been on my TBR forever!

  3. The twins remain conjoined? It sounds like an interesting read.


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