2017 Reading List: The Girls by Lori Lansens

I chose my next book because the title was exactly the same as the last book I read. When I was searching for The Girls, by Emma Cline, on Goodreads and on my library’s e-account, The Girls, by Lori Lansens, naturally came up right underneath it. Granted, I wouldn’t have added it to my list if I didn’t think it looked good.

(Sidenote: I read somewhere that our culture has recently had this obsession with the word “girl” in titles of books. Having this word seems to automatically grab people’s attention and indicate subconsciously that this book might be intriguing. Think: The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, All the Missing Girls, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, etc. Just search “Girl” on Goodreads and there are 87,584 books with “girl” in the title. If you’re writing a book, just call it “Girl Something” and you’ve got an instant bestseller.)

Anyways, so this book, The Girls, by Lori Lansens, is about conjoined twins named Rose and Ruby. It is the story of two sisters, born joined at the head, who are now the longest-living conjoined twins at age 30, and they are writing their autobiography. This book is fictional, but written in first person, alternating chapters by each of the girls, so it feels very real, authentic, and, dare I say it, autobiographical.

There isn’t much to give away in this book, as there wasn’t too heavy of a plot. There were no unexpected twists or serious bouts of action. It was mostly just a rambling from the very distinct minds and personalities of two girls who were just living their lives. Their stories were woven together in a blend of past and present, their lives as individuals and their lives as conjoined twins, their Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash’s lives layered on top, and their neighbor’s lives peeking around the corners.

The most interesting part of this book is simply the perspective of being a conjoined twin, which no one who is not a conjoined twin, could even imagine. To think of all the things they could never do alone and the things that would be difficult to do with someone attached to you is just mind blowing.

What I found particularly interesting was the sisters’ thoughts about each other. Each of them thought that they had a very solid grasp of who the other was. They had never been apart, so of course, they did know each other really well. But at the same time, even they had secrets they kept from each other. They had sides of their personalities that no one else would ever know or understand. Based on Rose’s writing, you would think that Ruby was a small, timid, whimsical type of girl. But Ruby explains herself as smart, tactical, and strong. Ruby thinks Rose is full of herself, bull-headed, and opinionated. But Rose is a dreamer and an idealist. Neither of them fully understand each other.

And somehow (I still don’t understand how), Rose and Ruby were able to keep things from each other that were not just their personality traits. Rose knew that her Uncle was sleeping with the neighbor, but somehow Ruby missed that and Rose never told her. Ruby knew that the grave they went to for their birth mother was fake and that their Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash had made up the story and the death so that they could have closure. Somehow Rose never caught on to that and Ruby didn’t have it in her to give her the truth.

At the same time, Ruby was planning a surprise party for Rose and thought that she was being so secretive with their friends, passing notes to plan everything. But Rose knew all along that there was a party.

I found Rose’s perspective interesting because she was the “writer.” She was the one who initiated the autobiography and she wanted it to be published. She wanted to leave behind a piece of herself and this story, her story, was the best she had. It’s so intriguing to me to read the perspective of a writer, especially when the writer is writing about writing, like Rose does. Rose writes about how she doesn’t feel like a writer, how she struggles with writing. Even Ruby writes about writing, how she is writing to a “friend” and how she doesn’t know what to say because she is not the writer.

To me, this just feels like real life. I struggle with writing. I doubt myself, my words, my thoughts. Most of the time I don’t know what to say, even though I know I have a story to tell. I don’t know where to begin or where to end. I feel just like Rose.

I think there were a few keys lessons in this story:

  • These sisters are selfless. They have so much love for each other that it trumps their struggles and their wants. Their love for each other is more important than anything else.
  • With such a rare “situation” as conjoinment, they have inevitable medical issues, and so they know they will not live forever. But neither will anyone else. While the sisters are trying to make the most of their shortened lives, so should everyone else be making the most of whatever time we all have. They make a big deal about not knowing how much time they have left, but the truth is that no one knows.
  • Every story is worth telling. Sometimes the girls mention that they didn’t do anything spectacular in their lives. They rarely traveled. They had only a few friends. They did not get married. But their story is special and it deserved to be told. Everyone has a story to tell.

 

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