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The Girls [Large Print] [Hardcover]

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

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Book Description

January 2006
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.

As Rose and Ruby's story builds to an unforgettable conclusion, Lansens aims at the heart of human experience--the hardship of loss and struggles for independence, and the fundamental joy of simply living a life. This is a breathtaking novel, one that no reader will soon forget, a heartrending story of love between sisters.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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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 an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably believable! May 8 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 dislikes and together as sisters who must rely on each other solely for their very existence. Joined at the head, `The Girls'--as they are known as in their small Ontario town--are raised by loving adoptive parents Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, after their birth mother disappears shortly after giving birth. The conjoined twins are considered the pride of the town, not an oddity, and they rise above what most of us would think of as a handicap or disability and love each other unconditionally.

The Girls is a diary told in two voices--Rose's and Ruby's. Rose encourages her sister to contribute to what will become their life story and although she does most of the writing, both characters come to life as they observe the lives of everyone they meet, sharing their innermost thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams with the reader. I found myself so connected to Rose and Ruby that I didn't want their story to end, and when it did, I was left with a bittersweet ache for more.

The first paragraph reads like pure, sweet poetry that is sure to haunt any reader; it is what first grabbed me and pulled at my heart. The Girls opens like this:

"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...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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LIFE IS WHAT ONE MAKES OF IT... March 14 2008
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
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. Lovey was one of the nurses present at the hospital when they were born.

Conjoined at the head, Rose and Ruby have a symbiotic relationship. Yet, for all their symbiosis, they are two very different and unique individuals. When Rose, who has a penchant for writing, decides to write her memoir, Ruby decides to add her two cents and write some chapters herself. This book is the story of their lives.

Written as two parallel stories, the author makes the voice of each twin distinct. Each of their narratives is redolent of the personality and world view of the twin writing the chapter. This is difficult to do, and the author succeeds brilliantly. This is certainly a book that will keep the reader turning the pages, At times heartbreakingly poignant, the book is infused with humor and wit, as well as a strong reminder that life is what one makes of it. Bravo!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Wondrous April 27 2006
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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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 9 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 on Oct. 9 2012 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 on Sept. 27 2012 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 Unique and engrossing
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. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2010 by I Love a Good Mystery
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
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Gave it a good shot and couldn't finish it
My response is similar to that of the reader who thought the book had potential BUT... After initial enthusiasm for the novel, I frankly became quite bored with it. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2007 by Canadian Reader
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