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Girls Hardcover – August 25, 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 279 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In such works as her classic novel of family interaction, How She Died, and her graphic depiction of working-class families in Sweetsir, Yglesias has never pulled her punches, writing with unsparing candor about the ways people in intimate relationships can hurt each other. She does so again in this little book, which describes, with unconstrained frankness and gallows humor, the pitiable conditions afflicting those in the anteroom of death. Narrator Jenny Witkovsky (aka Jane Witter, the name she uses as writer, critic, professor and lecturer) is even at 80 the "baby" of the four Witkovsky sisters. Two of the siblings are slowly dying, and Jenny comes to Miami Beach to help ease their last days. Eva, the eldest, is 95, and quietly failing. Naomi, at 90, is riddled with cancer. In recent years, they have depended on the third sister, 85-year-old Flora, a flamboyant geriatric sexpot who egotistically manipulates her siblings' lives. Now Jenny's arrival causes combustion. Yglesias eschews plot in favor of character portrayals, sketchily delineating the sisters' upbringing as the offspring of Jewish immigrants, and filling in their numerous marriages and lovers, careers and children, and the origins of their sibling rivalry. Meanwhile, she presents a social and cultural travelogue of Miami Beach's various districts and neighborhoodsAsweeping from the gaudy vulgarity of opulent hotels to down-at-the-heels elderly residences and nursing homes; capturing the Jewish population's prejudices against Cubans and Haitians, and vice versa; and drawing, without a veil of tact, an accurate picture of the geriatric community, most of whom are torn between the will to live and the wish to get dying over with. Detailed descriptions of the outfits each sister wears daily are intended as an indication of character but become jarringly intrusive in so slight a story. Yet some things are eerily accurate: the Yiddish-flavored, go-for-the-jugular dialogue; the ubiquity of infirm bodies using wheelchairs and walkers, the loud chatter of Spanish on buses and other public conveyances. And when, after a series of confrontations, recriminations, tears and reconciliations, the sisters finally agree on terminal care, they are all clear-eyed about the "unspeakable reality" of death. The audience for this book is anyone who is watching people they love grow old. Agents, Frances Goldin and Sydelle Kramer. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

I am not an 80-year-old Jewish woman. Nor have I been to Miami, with its gaudy colors, hot wind, and aging population. But from this novel, the fifth by Helen Yglesias (The Saviors), I can vividly imagine what it would be like. The "girls" are the four Witkovsky sisters: Eva, 95, debilitated by carelessly monitored drugs; Naomi, 90, fighting cancer but maintaining a crown of naturally black hair; Flora, 85, dressed in garish outfits as she does her standup routine on the senior circuit; and Jenny, the youngest, who comes south from New York to care for the others. Through her we meet the sisters, celebrate Eva's birthday, meet Flora's latest date, and settle Naomi into a nursing home. The sisters quarrel about men and money, rage and forgive, review the past and wonder why they can't live forever in this brisk, affecting novel. Recommended for public libraries.AYvette Weller Olson, City Univ. Lib., Renton, WA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Delphinium; 1st edition (August 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 188328516X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883285166
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (279 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,023,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 afterword....as 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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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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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved Rush Home Road, Lori Lansens' first book so I was looking forward to her second novel. This one didn't quite grab me as well as Rush Home Road did, but it is a great book nonetheless. Lansens has done an excellent job of turning these unlikely characters into very believable human beings. It is quite amazing, really. Like Rush Home Road, this book is also extremely well written.

Most of the book is written from the perspective of one of the twins, Rose, while some chapters are narrated by her sister Ruby. The story follows their lives from birth through childhood an into early adulthood. Despite their different personalities and interests they are forced to share a life and the challenges that arise from their physical attachment.

One correction: the Publisher's Weekly summary above states that the book is set in a town "just outside" Toronto. It is actually set near Chatham, Ontario, which is about 3 hours west of Toronto, closer to Detroit, Michigan. I am from Chatham so I am familiar with most of the places in the book - all of which are real except for the fictional town of Leaford, where most of the story is set. It is quite amazing to read a good novel set in an area that is so familiar to me.

If you like strong characters and good writing then you should defintely read this book!
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