The Girls by Lori LansensThe Girls by Lori Lansens

The Girls

byLori Lansens

Paperback | May 9, 2006

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“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.”
Lori Lansens is the author of two bestselling novels, Rush Home Road and The Girls, which was a Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year in 2006 (and sold over 300,000 copies in the UK) and a finalist for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Born and raised in Chatham, Ontario, Lori Lansens now makes her home in California.
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Title:The GirlsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 7.99 × 5.18 × 1 inPublished:May 9, 2006Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0676977960

ISBN - 13:9780676977967

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best books I have ever read This book was recommended to me by a colleague. I couldn't put it down. What a wonderful book! So touching and heart breaking and It's very well written.
Date published: 2018-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating I ran across this book purely by chance – and good fortune! It was on sale at one of the local bookstores, which prompted me to pick it up and take a closer look. The story itself intrigued me, but it was the writing that captivated me as I flipped from page to page reading a paragraph here and there. So I took it home. Well, let me tell you... Once in awhile a book comes along that leaves a beautiful imprint in your heart, and this is such a book. This extraordinarily moving, heartbreaking, joyous and sometimes funny story will stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover. You will adore the twins as they take turns narrating the story, and you will feel blessed for having been given a view into their world. The writing in this story is so delightful and emotion-provoking that you will sometimes forget that it’s not based on a true story.
Date published: 2017-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memorable I selected this book for my independent study for English class haphazardly and it ended up being a very memorable story. It was unique and very emotional and most importantly, it was exceptionally well written.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lori Lansens did it again! I think Lori Lansens is a brilliant writer! I loved Rush Home Road and consider it one of my favourite books. In this book, Lori amazed me again by introducing us to two new characters. Her writing is amazing and her ability to take you away and introduce you to new people and places is incredible. I highly recommend this book!
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth the long read Almost a 5. I don't know if everyone will like it, but I really did. It's long and you need to accept that and keep reading anyway because when you get near the end you realize you needed all those chapters and stories in order to become attached to not only the girls but also Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. So for reviews I see saying "I quit reading" I think it's a shame because you grow to love it. The writing is less than perfect but that's almost a good thing because the chapters are written by each sister, one an aspiring writer and one an admittedly bad writer. So it works that the writing isn't amazing and you can read it like letters or diary entries. I liked that the two girls had different styles and personalities in their writing and story telling so that you knew it was two distinct girls and not just an author changing perspectives. I grew to love all the characters through their life stories and cried twice in the last 50 pages. I recommend it for those who are patient enough for long books and can appreciate the need for all the stories.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but not her very best I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even the hard emotional parts. Lori Lansens is a wonderful author and this is a good starting point for her work. It only goes up from here.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It is hard to find good books like those of Lori Lansens When you crave a story, a really good story. A story that oulls you in and grabs hold. A story that breaks your heart and uplifts it. A novel that makes you think and makes you love more deeply, read The Girls.
Date published: 2016-11-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from :( It was just ok, if I start a book I will read it all, and I had to force myself to finish it.
Date published: 2013-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stash some time away to read this book! Great read!! Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash' sweet girls, Rose and Ruby Darlen of Baldoon county. Craniopagus twins. Forever entwined but such beautiful individuals. All the characters in the book are brought to life by Lori Lansens ability to tell a great story. You're going to cry with them and in the next sentence laugh with them. I couldn't put it down. Loved it.
Date published: 2012-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Emotional A peek into the world of siamese twins, Ruby and Rose show us the cruel way the world looks at them, as freaks and monsters. Lori Lansens does it again, as this book is beautifully written and pulls at your heartsrings through out the story...
Date published: 2009-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unable to put down I loved this heart warming story about two sisters and the journey of their life. The author develops the sisters as individual characters that at times the reader will forget that they are conjoined. I couldn't stop reading this book. If you pick it up, you will not be disappointed.
Date published: 2008-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bold and utterly convincing book The Girls pulled me inside the world of Siamese twin sisters who couldn't be more different from each other, yet literally could not live without each other--Rose the intellectual and aspiring writer, Ruby the amateur archeologist who believes in ghosts. In less capable hands, their story might make you cringe. But there's nothing remotely freakish about The Girls: you see yourself in all their joys, fears and life passages, including loss of virgnity. Lansens fearlessly realizes what might be the most extraordinary sex scene I've yet read. Tender, surprising and unforgettable, this book uses the sisters' condition to explore both the challenges and the rewards of intimacy. Unlike Ruby and Rose, who share a blood supply, the rest of us can outlive our kin. But we need them just as much as "the girls" do. Lansens brings this theme to life with a compelling story line and endearingly complicated characters.
Date published: 2007-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An unbelievable read... Lori Lansens novel "The Girls" is a masterpiece evoking emotion in even the hardest of hearts. "The Girls" is a story that wedges itself between every crevice of your being and begs not to be forgotten. A thought-provoking, magnificent, and mesmerizing book.
Date published: 2007-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Book of The Year! This book is written so compellingly that I had to keep looking at the cover to make sure it was fiction. The author does an outstanding job of making this story seem real. I couldn't wait to go out and buy another Lori Lansens book.
Date published: 2007-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touching Story This book is not usually one I would pick out on my own. However a friend read it for her bookclub and recommended it. It's written in a very interesting way, which I found hard to put down. You want to read on, even when its done.
Date published: 2006-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply great I heard about this book on CBC - I turned on the radio and heard an excerpt read by the author. I was instantly interested in reading this "memoir" of conjoined twins. This is a very simply written and easy to read book, about ordinary people who are privately extraordinary. These girls are taken in and loved by a childless couple after their somewhat catastrophic birth in a southwestern Ontario town. In that small town, they simply become "the girls" and grow up to be funny, smart and candid observers of the people around them. The book is written mostly from the perspective of Rose, the twin who can walk and who carries her sister on her hip. She is a writer who loves words and feels the weight of the responsibility of telling her story. Intermittently, we are graced with the unexpected voice of her sister Ruby, a straight talking but sensitive young woman who writes reluctantly and in a conversational tone. Lori Lansens is a gifted writer with a keen sense of people. I can't wait to read her next book!
Date published: 2006-07-07

Read from the Book

ruby & me~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.My sister, Ruby, and I, by mishap or miracle, having intended to divide from a single fertilized egg, remained joined instead, by a spot the size of a bread plate on the sides of our twin heads. We’re known to the world medical community as the oldest surviving craniopagus twins (we are twenty-­nine years old) and to millions around the globe, those whose interest in people like us is more than just passing, as conjoined craniopagus twins Rose and Ruby Darlen of Baldoon County. 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.”Raise your right hand. Press the base of your palm to the lobe of your right ear. Cover your ear and fan out your fingers – that’s where my sister and I are affixed, our faces not quite side by side, our skulls fused together in a circular pattern running up the temple and curving around the frontal lobe. If you glance at us, you might think we’re two women embracing, leaning against the other ­tête-­à-­tête, the way sisters do.Ruby and I are identical twins and would be identical looking, having high foreheads like our mother and wide, full mouths, except that Ruby’s face is arranged quite nicely (in fact, Ruby is very beautiful), whereas my features are misshapen and frankly grotesque. My right eye slants steeply towards the place my right ear would have been if my sister’s head had not grown there instead. My nose is longer than Ruby’s, one nostril wider than the other, pulled to the right of my brown slanted eye. My lower jaw shifts to the left, slurring my speech and giving a husky quality to my voice. Patches of eczema rouge my cheeks, while Ruby’s complexion is fair and flawless. Our scalps marry in the middle of our conjoined heads, but my frizzy hair has a glint of auburn, while my sister is a swingy brunette. Ruby has a deep cleft in her chin, which people find ­endearing.I’m five feet five inches tall. When we were born, my limbs were symmetrical, in proportion to my body. Presently, my right leg is a full three inches shorter than my left, my spine compressed, my right hip cocked, and all because I have carried my sister like an infant, since I was a baby myself, Ruby’s tiny thighs astride my hip, my arm supporting her posterior, her arm forever around my neck. Ruby is my sister. And strangely, undeniably, my ­child.There is some discomfort in our conjoinment. Ruby and I experience mild to severe neck, jaw, and shoulder pain, for which we take physiotherapy three times a week. The strain on my body is constant, as I bear Ruby’s weight, as I tote Ruby on my hip, as I struggle to turn Ruby over in our bed or perch on my stool beside the toilet for what seems like hours. (Ruby has a multitude of bowel and urinary tract problems.) We are challenged, certainly, and uncomfortable, sometimes, but neither Ruby nor I would describe our conjoinment as painful.It’s difficult to explain our locomotion as conjoined twins or how it developed from birth using grunts and gestures and what I suppose must be telepathy. There are days when, like a normal person, we’re clumsy and uncoordinated. We have less natural symbiosis when one of us (usually Ruby) is sick, but mostly our dance is a smooth one. We hate doing things in unison, such as answering yes or no at the same time. We never finish each other’s sentences. We can’t shake our heads at once or nod (and wouldn’t if we could – see above). We have an unspoken, even unconscious, system of checks and balances to determine who’ll lead the way at any given moment. There is conflict. There is ­compromise.Ruby and I share a common blood supply. My blood flows normally in the left side of my brain, but the blood in my right (the connected side) flows to my sister’s left, and vice versa for her. It’s estimated that we share a web of one hundred veins as well as our skull bones. Our cerebral tissue is fully enmeshed, our vascular systems snarled like briar bushes, but our brains themselves are separate and functioning. Our thoughts are distinctly our own. Our selves have struggled fiercely to be unique and, in fact, we’re more different than most identical twins. I like sports, but I’m also bookish, while Ruby is girlie and prefers television. When Ruby is tired, I’m hardly ever ready for bed. We’re rarely hungry together and our tastes are poles apart: I prefer spicy fare, while my sister has a disturbing fondness for ­eggs.Ruby believes in God and ghosts and reincarnation. (Ruby won’t speculate on her next incarnation though, as if imagining something different from what she is now would betray us both.) I believe the best the dead can hope for is to be conjured from time to time, through a note of haunting music or a passage in a book.I’ve never set eyes on my sister, except in mirror images and photographs, but I know Ruby’s gestures as my own, through the movement of her muscles and bone. I love my sister as I love myself. I hate her that way too.This is the story of my life. I’m calling it “Autobiography of a Conjoined Twin.” But since my sister claims that it can’t technically (“technically” is Ruby’s current favourite word) be considered an autobiography and is opposed to my telling what she considers our story, I have agreed that she should write some chapters from her point of view. I will strive to tell my story honestly, allowing that my truth will be coloured a shade different from my sister’s and acknowledging that it’s sometimes necessary for the writer to connect the dots.

Bookclub Guide

1. Rose begins her autobiography with a list of things she has never experienced. How does she revise this list in the final chapter – and what does the revised passage reveal about how she has evolved over the course of the novel?2. As a fictionalized autobiography, The Girls offers many insights into the art of the memoir. What challenges does Rose encounter while writing – and how does she deal with them? Consider, for instance, her decision to write the book chronologically.3. Throughout your reading, did you ever have to remind yourself that The Girls is a novel as opposed to an actual memoir?4. Ruby innocently reveals information that Rose is either withholding or simply hasn’t broached yet. What impact did these revelations have on you? How would you describe the sisters’ respective writing styles?5. The novel contains many comic moments. Which scenes stand out for you as most amusing?6. The Girls has been described as ultimately optimistic. What role does hope play in the story? How do the girls triumph over their situation? What role does Aunt Lovey play in helping them to become strong, both emotionally and physically?7. “We’ve been called many things: freaks, horrors, monsters, devils, witches, retards, wonders, marvels…In small-town Leaford, where we live and work, we’re just ‘The Girls.’” What role does language play in the novel with respect to naming and labeling?8. Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash are deeply committed to one another and very much in love. How do you understand Uncle Stash’s infidelity in this context?9. The novel is set near the Windsor-Detroit border, where the Ambassador Bridge joins Canada and the U.S. Does the novel’s setting have metaphorical significance in your view?10. Rose writes: “There is some alienation, of course, in being so different, but it’s also been fascinating, and a unique opportunity, I think, to have observed our generation without fully participating in it.” Besides Rose and Ruby, who else might be considered an outsider in the novel?11. The Girls contains numerous parallels and symmetries. For example, both Rose and her daughter will never know their birth mother. What other parallels and symmetries – in terms of plot, character and setting – caught your attention?12. How did you respond to the scene with Frankie Foyle? Were you curious about the sisters’ sexuality before you reached this chapter? What other aspects of conjoinment fascinated you or helped you to see the world differently?13. Discuss the various mother figures that appear in The Girls.14. How did you feel about the ending – in particular, not knowing precisely what happens to the sisters?15. Imagine that you were a neighbour or co-worker of Ruby and Rose. Which sister do you think you’d get along with better?

Editorial Reviews

"Lansens overcomes the ‘ick’ factor in this surprisingly moving story... 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. Quite an achievement."–Starred Kirkus Review"It is the true test of a writer’s mettle to create a convincing narrator, and Lori Lansens has done it not once but twice in her remarkable novel about conjoined twins. The two fascinating protagonists of “The Girls” live their lives together in every way, and yet nevertheless emerge with beliefs and desires all their own, and with distinct outlooks on their difficult circumstances. Lori Lansens is clearly a novelist with a very delicate touch."–Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha“The Girls, the year’s best book to come out of Canada, possibly the world. There’s deep craft at work here. The Girls communicates astute insights into the art of the memoir and tackles plot development that would sink most other writers. Lansens navigates them effortlessly. Awesome.” –NOW magazine "I promise: you will never forget this extraordinary story. Love, connection, loyalty, raw humanity and much more are the ingredients of this most unusual novel. Lori Lansens's blend of tragedy and comedy will touch you deeply.–Isabel Allende“A stunner…immensely exciting…a tribute to the extraordinariness of human consciousness…laced with delightful comic moments…not just a sophisticated literary accomplishment but a darned good read.”–Toronto Star“Extraordinary…a masterful and sophisticated duet…a multidimensional vision of the sisters’ lives.” –Time Magazine“A compelling read (I devoured it in one sitting)…Lansens’ 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.”–The National Post