Monday, January 18, 2010
The Girls by Lori Lansens
The Girls by Lori Lansens is one of those books I kept moving down in my to-read pile. Not because it didn't look like a great book, but because I just had to read other books for other reasons. I had a little time to spare while visiting family, though, so I got to read it (finally!). It's an adult book, but one that I think could have very high appeal to teen readers as well.
Rose Darlen is mostly the narrator of this book. She's writing her autobiography. That's not an uncommon thing to do, but Rose is somewhat of an uncommon person. She and her sister, Ruby, are craniopagus twins, joined at the head. Separation was never an option, because they share an essential vein. They come into the world on the day of a tornado that takes the life of a local boy, an event that ties them unwillingly to one of their neighbors. Rose and Ruby are raised by the nurse that delivered them and her adoring husband, who they refer to as Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash. Lovey and Stash do everything in their power to always treat the girls as two separate people and encourage others to do the same. The Girls goes somewhat against the grain of what's popular in YA lit right now (not that it was ever intended to be a popular YA book, imho): Rose and Ruby are extraordinary people, but they get the most joy and meaning from ordinary events and things. In that way, it reminded me a lot of my all-time favorite book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
What impressed me the most about this book was Lansens's ability to write distinctly in the two girls' voices. Lots of books are told in two voices, but few are told in the voices of two people who are so close physically and emotionally. Rose, whose goal in life was to become a writer, writes like someone who reads, with lusher phrases and a larger vocabulary. Ruby is no less intelligent than Rose, but her dislike of reading in favor of television leads her to more forthright language. I didn't always like the characters as people, but I found them fascinating from beginning to end. Definitely a great life-story book, even if said life is outside the realm of experience of almost every one of its readers.