A connection deeper than most

The Girls, by Lori Lansens (2005)

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 so begins the fictional autobiography of Rose and Ruby Darlen, the oldest living pair of conjoined craniopagus twins. For those of you who don’t obsessively watch late night TLC or haven’t flipped the pages of your medical dictionary in a while, that means they were born joined at the head. Two bodies, two brains, two very different personalities, but one fused skull. At age 29, Rose decides to start writing her autobiography, which her sister Ruby says isn’t fair, since Rose’s life story is essentially Ruby’s as well. Thus, the girls alternate chapters, a technique that paints a delightfully interesting picture of the differences in life experience despite their closeness.

The sisters have very different writing styles (an authorial skill I so deeply admire and is reminiscent of The Poisonwood Bible), with Rose often writing her portions as a storyteller, including historical background, emotional connections, and layered parallels, and Ruby writing as she would speak, telling her day-to-day accounts and responding to much of what she assumes Rose is writing. Both include much about their adoptive parents, Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, with whom although they share no blood ties, shared a deep affection.

Never self-pitying and continually surprising, this fresh story of two girls in a life that most of us have never even considered won my heart almost immediately.

2.5 stars

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