by Terry Thornton
While in New Orleans for Christmas and New Years, Sweetie and I have enjoyed many of the sights and sounds of the city and of the surrounding region. But we have also found time for some reading --- our daughter-in-law and son always leaves a stack of books out for us to read. I've skimmed two or three (and enjoyed looking at one tremendously).
But the book which caught my undivided attention attention first was one about conjoined craniopagus twins. It is a book of fiction by Canadian novelist Lori Lansens --- and the biologist in me was fascinated with the notion of reading an autobiography of conjoined twins, The Girls.
The title made me overlook the book for a couple of days after we arrived and I spend time flipping through other books in the stack which included works on Storyville and Prostitution in earlier times in New Orleans(Storyville, New Orleans by Al Rose, University of Alabama Press 1974), Michelle Baldwin's Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind, Speck Press 2004, and I started reading The Stupidest Angel Version 2.0 by Christopher Moore, William Morrow 2004. Moore is one of my favorite writers.
Then I picked up The Girls again and scanned a few pages. The words "conjoined" and "craniopagus" and "twins" jumped at me and I saw it was an attempt to write, as fiction, the autobiography of two told through the voice primarily of one with additional chapters by the other twin in the set.
The Girls is one of those books you start and read until it is done --- and Larsens' fictional account of life as conjoined twins attached head-to-head is brilliant. Larsens creates a most believable story of one set of craniopagus twins --- and creates two memorable characters to tell their story, Rose and Ruby.
Rose and Ruby are struggling to finish their written autobiography before they die --- they've been given only a few months to live during their twenty-ninth year. Their individual writings show how alike and how different they are although joined head-to-head. Their lives, although short, were full of love and triumphs. Larsens handles the task of writing their story through two different voices so masterfully that the reader comes to know the identical twins as separate individuals. Larsens also create a most believable cast of supporting characters set in her home area of Canada.
Read The Girls not for the danse macabre or for the opportunity to view such a rare human condition as conjoined craniopagus twins as a freak of nature but for the opportunity to learn about human nature and relationships --- and for the pleasure of reading and seeing how Larsens writes an autobiography for two.
The Girls, as a book, does not rise to the level of being a work which will change you forever but it does rise to the level of being a book and a story you will never forget.
The Girls, by Lori Lansens was published in 2005 by Little, Brown and Company. Copies are available through your favorite bookseller or at your local library.