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…
So begins “The Girls” by Lori Lansens. The story is about conjoined (craniopagus – joined at the head) twins Rose and Ruby Darlen. When the book opens, they are 29, and suffering from many health problems. Rose has an aneurysm and is slowly going blind. Ruby is the smaller of the two, always sickly. The sisters’ skulls are fused together at the side, with many of the vital veins intertwined. Practically since day one, doctors have proclaimed it to be too risky to attempt to separate the twins.
Their birth mother was young and unmarried, and not to mention frightened out of her mind. She goes into labor in the middle of a tornado. I don’t even want to think about the fates of Rose and Ruby if their birth mom didn’t have the brains to get to a hospital. Good thing she did – otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story. Of course, she didn’t know she was carrying conjoined twins. She disappears soon after the girls are delivered, and she doesn’t look back.
Nurse Lovey Darlen was assisting the birth, and she quickly steps into the role of adoptive mother to the babies. Her gentle husband Stash dotes on the girls. The family lives in a rural Canadian farming community called Leaford. They are known as simply “the girls.” They’ve gone to school, worked part-time at the local library, followed their individual hearts, built relationships, and LIVED lives worth living. They’ve lost both of their beloved parents and learned how to live on their own, moving from the farmhouse into town. Rose sets out to write their story down, and encourages Ruby to do the same. Ruby is the one who believes in ghosts, but her voice is not as poetic as Rose’s is. It’s easy to see that it is Rose who is the writer, and it is Rose who needs to leave something permanent behind. Ruby, as it seems, is just along for the ride.
Being a writer myself, I can just imagine the amount of research Lori Lansens had to do before beginning to write this book. It would most definitely discourage a lot of people. Remember that saying, “Write what you know”? You feel that reading this book. Every single word of this novel touched me. From the very first sentence to the last, I was enchanted by Rose and Ruby Darlen. I can’t even imagine being physically attached to another person all my life. Can you?