BookBrowse Reviews The Girls by Lori Lansens

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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
    Paperback:
    Apr 2007, 368 pages

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Not just a sophisticated literary accomplishment but a darned good read. Novel

From the book jacket: Meet Rose and Ruby: sisters, best friends, confidantes, and conjoined twins. Since their birth, Rose and Ruby Darlen have been known simply as "the girls." They make friends, fall in love, have jobs, love their parents, and follow their dreams. But the Darlens are special. Now nearing their 30th birthday, they are history's oldest craniopagus twins, joined at the head by a spot the size of a bread plate.

When Rose, the bookish sister, sets out to write her autobiography, it inevitably becomes the story of her short but extraordinary life with Ruby, the beautiful one. From their awkward first steps--Ruby's arm curled around Rose's neck, her foreshortened legs wrapped around Rose's hips-- to the friendships they gradually build for themselves in the small town of Leaford, this is the profoundly affecting chronicle of an incomparable life journey.

Comment: Lansens minimizes the voyeurism in her tale of conjoined twins living in a small Canadian community to focus on the individuals themselves.  Like regular twins the two girls have separate personalities and interests and even their own jobs.  When Rose, the bookish one, decides she's going to write her autobiography, Ruby at first ignores the project then, reluctantly, starts to write her own version; both agree not to read each other's work until they are finished.  By juxtaposing the two stories Lansens cleverly takes us deeper into the personalities of each woman - Rose is the more circumspect of the two, whereas Ruby's writing cuts straight to the chase showing her to be a lot more than the "shallow pretty girl" that Rose thinks she is, and revealing much more about her sister than we learn from Ruby alone. 

If you've enjoyed books such as The Time Traveler's Wife, you are likely to find that Lansen's blend of tragic-comedy will draw you in and leave you well satisfied.

Lori Lansens's first novel, Rush Home Road, about the descendants of the "underground railroad" living in Chatham, Ontario, was published in Canada in 2002 to considerable acclaim, with publishing rights sold in 11 countries and at least 8 languages.  She wrote it while she was pregnant with twins.  For her second novel, she was planning to write about a man living with multiple wives but saw a documentary on the Schappell sisters, the oldest-living craniopagus-twins (now 46-years-old), and found herself intrigued.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2006, and has been updated for the April 2007 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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