The Girls

The Girls

Book - 2005
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In Lori Lansens' astonishing second novel, readers come to know and love two of the most remarkable characters in Canadian fiction. Rose and Ruby are twenty-nine-year-old conjoined twins. Born during a tornado to a shocked teenaged mother in the hospital at Leaford, Ontario, they are raised by the nurse who helped usher them into the world. Aunt Lovey and her husband, Uncle Stash, are middle-aged and with no children of their own. They relocate from the town to the drafty old farmhouse in the country that has been in Lovey's family for generations. Joined to Ruby at the head, Rose's face is pulled to one side, but she has full use of her limbs. Ruby has a beautiful face, but her body is tiny and she is unable to walk. She rests her legs on her sister's hip, rather like a small child or a doll. In spite of their situation, the girls lead surprisingly separate lives. Rose is bookish and a baseball fan. Ruby is fond of trash TV and has a passion for local history. 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. Ruby, with her marvellous characteristic logic, points out that Rose's autobiography will have to be Ruby's as well -- and how can she trust Rose to represent her story accurately? Soon, Ruby decides to chime in with chapters of her own. The novel begins with Rose, but eventually moves to Ruby's point of view and then switches back and forth. Because the girls face in slightly different directions, neither can see what the other is writing, and they don't tell each other either. The reader is treated to sometimes overlapping stories told in two wonderfully distinct styles. Rose is given to introspection and secrecy. Ruby's style is "tell-all" -- frank and decidedly sweet. We learn of their early years as the town "freaks" and of Lovey's and Stash's determination to give them as normal an upbringing as possible. But when we meet them, both Lovey and Stash are dead, the girls have moved back into town, and they've received some ominous news. They are on the verge of becoming the oldest surviving craniopagus (joined at the head) twins in history, but the question of whether they'll live to celebrate their thirtieth birthday is suddenly impossible to answer. In Rose and Ruby, Lori Lansens has created two precious characters, each distinct and loveable in their very different ways, and has given them a world in Leaford that rings absolutely true. The girls are unforgettable.The Girlsis nothing short of a tour de force. From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: Toronto : Alfred A. Knopf Canada, c2005
ISBN: 9780676977950
Characteristics: 457 pages ;,24 cm.


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Nov 19, 2019

My sister and I loved this book. We felt the girls acted like very close sisters and we saw our relationship in those two.
We also are from the midwest and we felt it captured the feel of the midwest of the United States.

Feb 05, 2018

The story itself is a creative account of Ruby and Rose, conjoined twins, raised by Lovey and Stash. Ruby, as narrator, is writing their life story. Many of the events brought insight into a life limited in many ways but unlimited in areas most people never experience. I found the majority of the book less compelling than I would think and attribute it to the possibility that having Rose narrating means it is written from the 29 year old writing capability therefore lacking a certain depth and intrigue I expected. Although characters were developed, events were not. However, I did read to the end.

Aug 06, 2017

I'm trying to put my finger on exactly why I enjoyed this book so much when the last one left me cold. Both were first person narratives of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation (in the last book, a teenager whose town was about to be flooded by a new dam; in this book, two small town girls who happen to be conjoined twins). But the last book was mildly interesting while this one was compelling.

I think a lot of it can be attributed to writing style. The Girls is one of the few books I've read lately in which first person was a necessary and perfect choice. The narrators are speaking directly to the reader in a casual conversational style that feels like you are either chatting with them or reading their diaries. Yes, narrators. I, who normally *hate* multiple first person narrators still really enjoyed this book. It was always perfectly clear who was speaking - in part due to a subtle font change between narrators. The primary narrator informs the reader that there will be a secondary narrator, and the secondary narrator directly introduces herself at the first switch. This might sound clunky, but it isn't. I believe that can be attributed to the "I'm chatting with you" writing style.

There's not a lot I can say about the plot without spoiling it. Suffice it to say, there are several twists - some of which require the second narrator to introduce - and I became quite fond of both twins over the course of the story.

Highly recommended.

Published in 2005, I don't know why this book did not make it to Canada Reads. A beautifully told story of extraordinary twins raised in rural Ontario by adoptive parents. The description of the smells and the understated story of suffering and heroism, poverty and riches, life and death keep me enthralled.

Jul 06, 2016

Couldn't put this book down!! Not a book I would normally choose, but I loved A Wife's Tale and my sister told me I had to read this one as glad I did.

Dec 30, 2014

I really loved this book. It was very well written and pulled me in from the very beginning. You will be rooting for 'the girls' as you hear their story. It will at times be heartbreaking, but inspiring as well.

Dec 08, 2012

When you pick up a novel about conjoined twins, you might expect a curiosity, a glimpse of a life unlike any you can imagine. Lori Lansens' novel The Girls, about 29-year-old Rose and Ruby Darlen, who are joined at the head, is instead an affecting portrait of the importance of connections, and the distance that exists within even the closest of bonds. The Girls is a masterful tale and reading it will definitely make you a bigger person. This novel fantasizes about what it would be like to truly, deeply and physically know another person to such an extent that it is impossible to live otherwise. Through hardships and highlighting moments of their lives, like the fact they were born in the middle of a ferocious tornado, these twin girls have been always there for each other. Ruby, the exciting twin, writes the occasional chapter at Rose's urging, since she feels her life story could never be complete without the voice of the sister who has been along for every breath of it. Lansen creates completely distinct voices for each woman, and occasionally uses the format to revisit moments from each perspective. The title, itself portrays the strong connection between these two amazing strong women. They find ways to cope with the exclusion they endure from society, struggling relationships and ultimately realize that they are each other’s best companion. At last it comes down to the point where they must decide, who out of the two will live, and that is the hardest decision the twins could possibly face. This novel will take you through a twisting journey of these two conjoined, extraordinary characters.

Jun 15, 2011

I just couldn't get into this book at all. Shame because I normally love her books.

ksoles May 19, 2011

I read The Girls by Lori Lansens a couple of months ago but, now that I can comment on it, I feel compelled to contribute to its publicity! The book presents the fictional autobiography of the world’s “oldest surviving craniopagus twins.” Rose and Ruby Darlen, born in the blacked-out aftermath of a tornado, are joined at the head; they share a common blood supply and can never be separated. Abandoned by their birth mother, they get adopted by a delighted nurse, Lovey Darlen and her husband Stash. As the twins' thirtieth birthday approaches, the bookish Rose decides to fulfill a fifteen-year-old promise and write her life story. She invites her “somewhat lazy” sister Ruby to write a few chapters as well, though they agree not to read each others’ work. The result is a captivating, tender story of identity, attachment, and, it comes from Canada!

Apr 28, 2011

This is one of those books I cannot say enough about. Refreshingly different and honest and true feeling. What would life be like as one of the girls? This book is full of the different kinds of love in the world, and they all ring true. I ordered Lori Lansens other two books one chapter in. Read it, read it!

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