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The Girls: A Novel Hardcover – May 2, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (May 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lansens' remarkable second novel is told from two viewpoints: that of Rose and that of Ruby Darlen, 29-year-old conjoined twins. Rose and Ruby are about to go down in history as the oldest surviving twins to be joined at the head. A recent medical diagnosis has spurred Rose to write her autobiography, and she encourages Ruby to do the same. Between the two sections, the story of their lives is revealed, beginning with their birth to an unwed teen mother and their adoption by Lovey Darlen, the nurse who was with their mother when she was in labor, and her strong, silent husband, Stash. The girls grow up on the Darlens' farm in rural Ontario, where Lovey refuses to accept the word of skeptical doctors who doubt the girls will ever be able to walk on their own. There is a great deal of subtlety in Lansens' narrative, and how the twins reveal the details of their lives--often one will refer to something she is sure the other has already mentioned in her section. But her biggest achievement in the novel is bringing to life these two truly extraordinary characters to such a degree that readers may forget they are reading fiction. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316069035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316069038
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (251 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lori Lansens was born and raised in Chatham, Ontario, a small Canadian town with a remarkable history and a collection of eccentric characters. Living with her family in southern California now, she could not resist the pull of her fictitious 'Baldoon County' when she set out to write The Wife's Tale. She took the journey, along with her main character, from Canada to the Pacific Coast of America, where she enjoys the sunshine, and has learned a thing or two about transformation. She has written several screenplays and is the author of two previous novels, The Girls and Rush Home Road.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

87 of 93 people found the following review helpful By L. Quido VINE VOICE on July 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like other readers, I, too, am having a hard time moving on from the novel.

Like Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" and Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife", Lansens' "The Girls" owes its initial fame to a jaw-dropping concept, namely, a first person(s) fictional account of conjoined twin girls. Unlike those books, there is a fundamental joy brought forth from the sadness of the imagined situation. The two points of view, told in distinctively different voices and with different type settings, dance and weave with each other. Lansens, who has written for films and has an earlier novel, has a rich imagination coupled with a distinctive use of dialogue. But it is her gift for metaphor, and her voice that speaks of writing that causes the book to sit and simmer in your brain, ruining your concentration for those that come Rose, the larger twin, the writer:

"Words leak from my brain. Seep out my ear. Burble from my crooked mouth. Splash on my shirt. Trickle into my keyboard. Pool on my warped parquet floor. At least they're not gushing from my heart.....I catch the words as they fall. My hands smell. And the place is a wreck. From all the spilled words."

Magnificent. The best book of 2005. Buy it, luxuriate in it.
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73 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on July 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but was floored by the beautiful writing, the prosaic metaphors, the sheer beauty of the entire story. . . not something you'd expect in regard to a tale of conjoined twins, fiction or not. It truly touched my soul and made me look at life through different eyes. I can only count on one hand the books that have affected me like this one.

When I read the last few pages yesterday, I was weeping. I didn't want the book to end. It wasn't a sad ending, I just didn't want the story to EVER end. I don't like giving book reports, but suffice it to say that this book will move into your heart and soul after you read it and will never completely leave you. A magnificent book, pure and simple. It deserves 10 stars and a Pulitzer Prize.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nancy C. on June 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I finished "The Girls" a couple of days ago, and it continues to haunt me. I keep thinking of it and am having a hard time concentrating on a new book. I suppose I was attracted by the theme of conjoined twins and was curious to see how the author would present it. It's actually a positive story of two girls, conjoined at the head, who manage to carve out a productive and happy life, with the support of loving adoptive parents.

Perhaps the ending is a bit down, but Ms. Lansens handles it beautifully. I highly, highly recommend "The Girls."
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jim M. on April 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of this book. I opened it with no certainty that I planned on taking the time to read it. But the first sentences grabbed me, the early pages glided away, and by then, I was so entrenched in this world and entranced by the two main characters that there was no letting it go. This is a warm, open hearted gift of a novel. It demands to be read, and Lansens writes with such grace and clarity that it is easy to forget that this is fiction. I loved this novel, and I'm sure that I will return to it again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of this talented writer since 1972, when I purchased her first novel, HOW SHE DIED. I fell in love with her writing style and time has not diminished her ability to fold words together, creating a feast of images. THE GIRLS is a small but important novel of four elderly sisters, two of whom are dying. The two youngest sisters, Jenny, 80, and Flora, 85, could hardly be so dissimilar, yet so alike. The older sisters, Naomi, 90, and Eva, 95, reside in Miami, as does Flora. We meet them all when Jenny, the baby, travels to Florida from Maine at Flora's request. The older sisters need more intensive care and must be tenderly transitioned into the last place they will ever call home. Each with her own unique personality, the sisters expose their fears and concerns as time moves them all inexorably toward the end. Thanks to the skillful writing of Yglesias, we are able to know these old women not just as they are, but as they used to be, young and full of life. They open to the reader like a photograph album, wrinkles, warts and all. We are reminded that behind each ancient face lurks a childlike spirit, and that family, in the end, is often the only remaining buffer against an uncertain final journey.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In what has to be the best blend of heartbreaking sadness and unbelievable joy, author Lori Lansens has managed to write a novel about two girls that you will not soon forget -- if ever. After I finished THE GIRLS, I felt many emotions, but the strongest was that I had just read the story of two of my best and dearest friends. And even though I know that this story is fiction, I can't help but think that somewhere, two girls share a life that is a lot like that of Rose and Ruby Darlen.

Rose and Ruby are twins, yes, but they are also so much more. They are craniopagus twins, born conjoined at the right side of the head. As Rose puts it, she's never looked into her sister's eyes, she's never bathed alone, and she's never taken a solo walk. But what Rose lacks in aloneness is made up for with the closeness that she shares with Ruby, her sister, best friend, confidant, and greatest admirer.

The Darlen sisters were born in the small town of Leaford on the same day that a tornado struck the town and scooped up a young boy named Larry Merkel, who was never seen again. On the day that their mother, a young, frightened woman who called herself Elizabeth Taylor, gave birth, she was attended to by a devoted nurse known as Lovey. When the girls' mother later disappeared a week after that fateful day, much as Larry Merkel had been blown into the wind, it was Lovey Darlen who chose the girls as her own -- or, rather, they chose each other.

As Rose and Ruby struggle to learn to live together and yet retain their own individuality, it is their Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash who provide the love, comfort, and stability that the girls need. Being a conjoined twin has both its benefits and detriments, as both girls learn from an early age.
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