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The Girls [Paperback]

Lori Lansens
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 9 2006 0676977960 978-0676977967
“We’ve been called many things: freaks, horrors, monsters, devils, witches, retards, wonders, marvels. To most, we’re a curiosity. In small-town Leaford, where we live and work, we’re just ‘The Girls.’”

Rose and Ruby Darlen are closer than most twin sisters. Indeed, they have spent their twenty-nine years on earth joined at the head. Given that they share a web of essential veins, there is no possibility that they can be separated in their lifetime.

Born in a small town in the midst of a tornado, the sisters are abandoned by their frightened teenaged mother and create a circus-like stir in the medical community. The attending nurse, however, sees their true beauty and decides to adopt them. Aunt Lovey is a warm-hearted, no-nonsense woman married to a gentle immigrant butcher, Uncle Stash. The middle-aged couple moves to a farm where the girls – “not hidden but unseen” – can live as normal a life as possible.

For identical twins, Rose and Ruby are remarkably different both on the inside and out. Ruby has a beautiful face whereas Rose’s features are, in her own words, “misshapen and frankly grotesque.” And whereas Rose’s body is fully formed, Ruby’s bottom half is dwarfish – with her tiny thighs resting on Rose’s hip, she must be carried around like a small child or doll. The differences in their tastes are no less distinct. A poet and avid reader, Rose is also huge sports fan. Ruby, on the other hand, would sooner watch television than crack open a book – that is, anything but sports. They are rarely ready for bed at the same time and whereas Rose loves spicy food, Ruby has a “disturbing fondness for eggs.”

On the eve of their thirtieth birthday, Rose sets out to write her autobiography. But because their lives have been so closely shared, Ruby insists on contributing the occasional chapter. And so, as Rose types away on her laptop, the technophobic Ruby scribbles longhand on a yellow legal pad. They’ve established one rule for their co-writing venture: neither is allowed to see what the other has written. Together, they tell the story of their lives as the world’s oldest surviving craniopagus twins – the literary Rose and straight-talking Ruby often seeing the same event in wildly different ways. Despite their extreme medical condition, the sisters express emotional truths that every reader will identify with: on losing a loved one, the hard lessons of compromise, the first stirrings of sexual desire, the pain of abandonment, and the transcendent power of love.

Rose and Ruby Darlen of Baldoon County, Ontario, are two of the most extraordinary and unforgettable characters to spring into our literature. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “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.” The National Post writes: “Lansens’s 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.”

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Product Description

From Amazon

In 29 years, Rose Darlen has never spent a moment apart from her twin sister, Ruby. She has never gone for a solitary walk or had a private conversation. Yet, in all that time, she has never once looked into Ruby's eyes. Joined at the head, "The Girls" (as they are known in their small Ontario town) are the world's oldest surviving craniopagus twins. In her astonishing second novel, Lori Lansens (author of Rush Home Road) ventures into the strange world of physical abnormality that Barbara Gowdy so chillingly explored in We So Seldom Look on Love. While some writers might be tempted to play up the grotesque aspects of life as a conjoined twin, Lansens treats her so-called freaks with sensitivity and respect. The result is an extraordinarily moving narrative about human connectedness that questions the very meaning of "normal."

The Girls is a fictional autobiography of the Darlen twins, mostly told by Rose but with occasional chapters by Ruby. The stronger and more frustrated of the two, Rose longs to become a published writer but tends to conceal or distort disturbing incidents from their shared past. Ruby, by contrast, tells it like it is, but is much more accepting of their intertwined fate. (Ruby is also the prettier twin, and one of the most poignant and shocking scenes in the novel is Rose's account of her--or rather their--first sexual experience.) As Rose and Ruby describe their relatively sheltered childhood, rocky adolescence, and tentative experiments with love, the interplay between these two distinct voices heightens the dramatic tension of what's to come. The saddest part is saying good-bye--to "The Girls" and to this compassionately written novel. --Lisa Alward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Wondrous April 27 2006
Format:Hardcover
While initially skeptical of an able=bodied author delving into the world of conjoined twins (the potential for disaster was there), I came away from this book profoundly moved. Lansens has crafted a powerful, thoughtful, wickedly funny, and emotionally poignant novel about these two memorable characters.
The two women (Rose and Ruby) rarely stray into the 'inspirational cripple' model that's found so often in media images of disabled people. Instead, they come across as human - with faults, flaws and even farts!
More than that, they reveal desires, fears, and hopes that help make them fully-fleshed out characters rather than circus caricatures.
I recommend this book highly and without reservation. It was a pure delight to read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary Extraordinariness Oct. 7 2007
By Dave and Joe TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I finished this book only moments ago, had to wipe the tears from my eyes. Seldom has a book had such a huge impact on my life. Rose and Ruby's (the girls) mother makes the observation that in every ordinary life is an extraordinary story ... this book itself proves the opposite is also true. Two people who are vastly different are also entirely similar. The books goes 'behind the stares' to see who it is that we look at ... and who is looking back at us. I became a wheelchair user a couple years ago and was surprised how much I changed in the eyes of others, how I had moved to a different land, crossed a border. This book speaks to living in the land I now inhabit. It does so with wit and grace. I am utterly in awe of this accomplishment.
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5.0 out of 5 stars TOP OF THE CHARTS NARRATIVE May 31 2006
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Seems to this listener that audio books are simply getting better and better. Case in point is The Girls, the story of conjoined twins, Rose and Ruby, as narrated by Stephanie Zimbalist and Lolita Davidovich.

Both of these readers are acclaimed actresses and assets to any narrative. Stephanie Zimbalist comes from a family of actors and has a lengthy as well as prestigious roster of acting credits. TV fans well remember her for her six year tenure as Laura Holt in Remington Steele. Now let's move on to her stage credits where we find her in The Cherry Orchard with Alfred Molina and the national tour of One and Only with Tommy Tune. Versatile? You Bet!

Lola Davidovich is familiar to many for her numerous cinema roles, including Gods and Monsters with Ian McKellen and Lynn Redgrave. She has an unforgettable voice, by turns rich and challenging.

Our story opens with Rose speaking: "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. "

One can scarcely imagine what it would be like to be a twin, let alone a conjoined twin. Yet, Lori Lansens has crafted an amazing story of great personal courage, love, and a yearning for independence. In this tale Rosie and Ruby are the world's oldest conjoined twins with remarkable lives to share.

Listen and be moved by their extraordinary experiences.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing novel Feb. 6 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This may be one of the best books I've ever read. It will make you laugh and make you cry. You will fall in love with these girls and not want their story to end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and engrossing Feb. 12 2010
Format:Paperback
I was given a copy of this book; otherwise I probably would never have read it. But I'm SO glad I did! It was like reading an actual autobiography rather than a novel. I loved every minute of it and it left me wanting more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Girls April 4 2007
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this novel; The Girls is a dramatic, character-driven story, and by the end of the novel you feel as though they are real people, not fictional characters. There are certain parts of the book that lag a little - especially some of the excerpts from Ruby's point of view - but it's a story that sticks with you. If you're a lover of action or suspense this isn't the best pick for you, but if you enjoy reading about the life of two amazing characters then I'd highly recommend it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Girls Jan. 22 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Just finished reading this stunning novel and I cannot get over its captivating story; Lansens has undeniable talent. Her characters are almost painfully real and she manages to capture all of the complexity and beauty of Ruby and Rose's relationship. At times funny, at times heartbreaking, but always very real. This ranks as one of the best books I have ever read. Highly recommended, as is her first novel, "Rush Home Road".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Meet Ruby and Rose Aug. 11 2006
Format:Paperback
Not often do you find a book with characters so real you have to keep checking the information page to confirm it truly is a work of fiction. Ruby and Rose became real for me and since finishing the novel I think of them fondly and often, like old friends from school that I've lost touch with.

Read this book. It will, just a little bit, change the way you see the world and the people who live there.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fictional story that you can believe is true
I was enthralled with this story right from the start. The author must have done a lot of research as it all seems so real and gives a good insight into the lives of con joined... Read more
Published 8 months ago by C. A. Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Fell in love with "The Girls"
Lori Larsens' The Girls is a novel about twin sisters - conjoined twins - who are born and raised by their adoptive "Aunt" and "Uncle" in southwestern Ontario. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kadi Kaljuste
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must read' book
I have just finished one of the tattiest paper backs that I have ever read - and enjoyed every page of it, even the loose ones which I have had to chase after as they have... Read more
Published 24 months ago by the brolly dolly
5.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts...
I read The Girls by Lori Lansens a couple of months ago but, now that I can comment on it, I feel compelled to contribute to its publicity! Read more
Published on May 30 2011 by Reader Writer Runner
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfuly Canadian and humbling
I loved this book! So much that I had to pass it along to friends. The girls will engross you with their life story, though fiction, it feels real. Read more
Published on June 3 2010 by Carrie A. Harfman
5.0 out of 5 stars Normal Against All Odds
Conjoined twins tell their life story just before dying. I initially resisted reading this book because it smacked of voyeurism at a freak show. I was wrong. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2010 by R. Redekop
4.0 out of 5 stars unusual and interesting
At first I was apprehensive about reading the book because of the unusual nature of the characters...Conjoined twins are not really a topic that is discussed everyday. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2009 by C. Allinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably believable!
Lyrical, poetic prose opens this heartwarming and unique story of conjoined twins Rose and Ruby and the lives they led, both separately as two individuals with different likes and... Read more
Published on May 8 2008 by Cheryl Tardif
5.0 out of 5 stars LIFE IS WHAT ONE MAKES OF IT...
This is a beautifully written story about conjoined twins named Rose and Ruby. Abandoned by their mother at birth, they are adopted by a kindly couple, Lovey and Stash Darlen. Read more
Published on March 14 2008 by Lawyeraau
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising
I picked this book up thinking as it was intended that it would be a light read. I will always carry the characters from this book within me. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2008 by Business
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