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Excerpt from The Girls by Lori Lansens, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Girls

by Lori Lansens

The Girls by Lori Lansens X
The Girls by Lori Lansens
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 352 pages

    Apr 2007, 368 pages


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Print Excerpt

RuRuby sniffed into the plaid handkerchief she kept, as old ladies do, tucked up in her sleeve. I opened a small red book with no pictures and read a story that haunts me, like music. The story of Minnie and Marie. Minnie and Marie were born joined at the chest (that would be a thorapagus conjoinment) in Wales in 1959. The combined weight of the girls at birth was only seven pounds. By the time they were eighteen months old, they'd spent more time in the hospital than out. Minnie and Marie were physically beautiful babies with porcelain complexions and thick black curls, and they laughed more than they cried. The babies embraced and kissed each other often, but they also fought viciously and sometimes had to be restrained by the nurses. They were slow developing language skills but communicated easily with each other. For some reason, they each called the other "Marie," which they pronounced "Me." Their adoring nurses and doctors called both babies "Me" too. Minnie and Marie were normal in all aspects except that they shared one heart, which began to fail as they neared their second birthday.

Specialists were brought in on the case, thoracic and vascular and cardiac surgeons, all of whom proposed sacrificing the sicklier baby, Marie, and giving the shared heart to the stronger twin, Minnie. Their mother, panicked by the ticking clock and the doctors' insistence that both girls would die if something wasn't done, agreed to the surgery. She kissed baby Marie good-bye forever while she prayed that the shared heart would work in baby Minnie. The heart did work in Minnie, better than the doctors had dared hope. When little Minnie opened her eyes a few days following the surgery, the roomful of doctors and nurses erupted with applause. The baby clapped too, then reached out to embrace her sister, frightened and confused to find her twin gone. Minnie searched the room for the face of Marie. "Me?" she whispered. The doctors and nurses fell silent. The baby looked around again. "Me?" she begged. "Me?" Then she looked down and, suddenly, seemed to understand that her sister had been amputated from her chest. "Hurts," she whimpered, touching the white bandages. She found the eyes of her mother, who by this time was awash in tears. "Me," Minnie said once more, then closed her eyes and died too.

AUNT LOVEY TOLD me way back then to write my story fearlessly, a little how it is, a little how I wish it could be, not just as a conjoined twin but as a human being and a woman, and all these years later, that's what I'm going to do. "Write," she said, "as if you'll never be read. That way you'll be sure to tell the truth." But I do want to be read. I want to share this true story of my life—with you.

Copyright © 2005 by Lori Lansens

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