Friday, December 26, 2008

Book Review: The Girls by Lori Lansens

Twins. When I was little I wished my family had a set of twins. An instantly large family—that was what I always wanted. It remained just the four of us, though, until my sister Kathy got married and had her own children.

I sometimes wonder what life would have been life if my sister and I were twins, though. We're pretty similar to begin with...would it have only intensified by being born at the same time? Or perhaps, being twins, we would naturally want to differentiatae ourselves as best we could?

What if we were conjoined though?

In Lori Lansens's The Girls, the Darlen family is very similar to my own. An older mother and father, a strong tie to Eastern Europe (Slovakia in the Darlen's case), and a pair of girls. That is where all similarity stops, though, for Rose and Ruby Darlen are born conjoined at the head. The novel is written as a memoir, primarily in the voice of Rose, with chapters from Ruby interspersed throughout. On the eve of their thirtieth birthday, they are the oldest living set of craniopagus conjoined twins. This mighty feat prompts Rose to begin her autobiography, but because her life is so closely tied to Ruby's she cannot tell the whole tale, which is why Ruby is given a chance to tell her story as well.

The two voices compliment each other, revealing pieces of the story that the other chooses not to. It gives the story greater depth, because you feel like you are being treated to two sides of the same tale. You feel true sorrow by the end of the book, for the hardships and frustrations these two very unique individuals have gone through. Living in smalltown Ontario is hard enough as it is. To be a local oddity makes it infinitely worse.

In the end, though, the girls learn that they are more than the sum of all their parts. While they have lived together for thirty years, they have still lived separate lives. What one girl sees, the other may not have, and you come to realize that as they tell you more about themselves.

This was a fantastic book, and I was really pleased to have read it. I bought it on a whim, and it was very worth it. I recommend it to anyone who has a sister, a twin, or just thinks their family is a little weird. You will fall in love with these girls and they will break your heart.


Beth F said...

Thanks so much for this. My sister-in-laws are identical twins, and I'm always on the look out for twin books! This sounds interesting.

Kathy said...

We would not make good conjoined twins. We'd want to kill each other after being together ALL the time.

Terri said...

Great review. I LOVED this book, one of my favorites of 2008.