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The Girls: A Novel Paperback – April 10, 2007
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
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"Lansens overcomes the 'ick' factor in this surprisingly moving story... The novel's power lies in the wonderful narrative voices of Rose and Ruby. Lansens has created a richly nuanced, totally believable sibling relationship... An unsentimental, heartwarming page-turner. Quite an achievement."
-Starred Kirkus Review
"It is the true test of a writer's mettle to create a convincing narrator, and Lori Lansens has done it not once but twice in her remarkable novel about conjoined twins. The two fascinating protagonists of "The Girls" live their lives together in every way, and yet nevertheless emerge with beliefs and desires all their own, and with distinct outlooks on their difficult circumstances. Lori Lansens is clearly a novelist with a very delicate touch."
-Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha
"The Girls, the year's best book to come out of Canada, possibly the world. There's deep craft at work here. The Girls communicates astute insights into the art of the memoir and tackles plot development that would sink most other writers. Lansens navigates them effortlessly. Awesome."
"I promise: you will never forget this extraordinary story. Love, connection, loyalty, raw humanity and much more are the ingredients of this most unusual novel. Lori Lansens's blend of tragedy and comedy will touch you deeply.
"A stunner...immensely exciting...a tribute to the extraordinariness of human consciousness...laced with delightful comic moments...not just a sophisticated literary accomplishment but a darned good read."
"Extraordinary...a masterful and sophisticated duet...a multidimensional vision of the sisters'lives."
"A compelling read (I devoured it in one sitting)...Lansens' beautiful writing is so detailed that it is often easy to forget that the material is not based on a true story. She captures what it would be like never to sleep, bathe, go for a walk or meet friends on your own."
-"The National Post
"From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
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 thatRose'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 Girls" is nothing short of a tour de force.
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Rose carries the burden of Ruby's weight. Rose grew to a height of 5'5" and since Ruby's legs never fully developed, it is if Rose is always carrying a child with their legs wrapped around her waist. Imagine carrying your child for your entire life.
"I understand that I am me, but that I am also we."
Rose wants to be a writer. Ruby wants to be an artist who has a penchant for digging up Indian artifacts that are on display at the Leaford Museum. "Aunt Lovey", the girl's adopted Mother, encourages Rose to write her autobiography. This book, THE GIRLS, is written as if we are reading Rose's autobiography as she writes it. How does a conjoined twin write an autobiography without the input of her twin? Well, she allows chapters to be written by Ruby. The chapters written by "Rose" are almost poetic in nature. The ones written by "Ruby" are sometimes hilarious.
You'll laugh and you'll cry reading about the lives of these girls. The longest living craniopagus twins lived to be 29 years old. Rose and Ruby are approaching their 30th birthday.
Amazingly, this book is fiction. Lori Lansens creates characters in Rose and Ruby Darlen that seem so real that I have a hard time believing that they exist only on the pages of this book and in the brilliant mind of the author. And now, in my heart as well.
"I am Rose Darlen of Baldoon County. Beloved sister of Ruby... Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash were right. How lucky Ruby and I have been to be 'The Girls.'"
The book 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." With sensitivity, humor, love and genuine concern, Ruby and Rose tell their life stories and the stories of those they love. Born on the day of a great tornado, to a young single mother who abandons them, the twins are adopted by Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. They are raised on a family farm in Canada, not too far from Toronto or Detroit. They are raised in an atmosphere of great love and support by two wonderful and eccentric parents.
Rose is the writer. She is a book lover and has a personality that is both literate and rational. She has done well in school and takes learning seriously. Rose is more of a dreamer and not as much a book person. She loves archeology and has amassed a wealth of artifacts pertaining to the Neutral Indians that she has found on her family's farm. Both girls have these wonderful loving rituals that mean 'I love you' to each other. Rose rubs Ruby's ear and makes sure her clubbed feet (which get cold easily) are covered up at night by blankets. They also bicker and fight, sometimes pinching each other.
We learn about their childhoods, teenaged years and adulthood. At the time the book starts, Rose and Ruby at 29 years old, are the oldest living craniopagus twins in history. We learn about the lives of Aunt Lovey and uncle Stash. We travel with Rose and Ruby to Slovakia and to Toronto. We share their longings and histories. We are privy to their most intimate feelings and desires. We meet their friends and relatives and see them from Rose and Ruby's perspectives.
The book explores issues of individuation and autonomy for the twins, along with their shared universe. It examines what it's like to be different in a world where 'normal' prevails. With sensitivity and poignancy, we are allowed into the twins' inner worlds to see these issues from their perspectives.
The book is beautifully written with wonderful characterization. I was struck by the tone of the book which is written by Rose and Ruby without any self-pity, with a sense of acceptance and pride in who they are. Of course, they yearn to have experienced things that others take for granted and they get tired of stares and questions. However, they are 'the girls' and would not trade their lives for any others. I have ordered Lori Lansens first book and look forward to reading that novel soon.
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They each think from time to time,what it might have been like to have been born norma!.Read more