The Girls (2005): Lori Lansens

★★★★

Rose and Ruby Darlen have grown up in the small town of Leaford in Baldoon County, Ontario. Despite being twins, they’ve always striven to be different, refusing to wear the same clothes and cultivating different hobbies. Rose loves books, writing, and watching sports. Ruby is the pretty one, interested in magazines and TV, but also obsessed with the history and artefacts of the Neutral Nation peoples who once lived in their area. The girls’ lives have been simple: they grew up with their Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash in a big old farmhouse on the outskirts of town and now share a bungalow in Leaford itself. In many ways they are perfectly ordinary. And yet, in one of the most significant ways, they are utterly extraordinary. For Rose and Ruby are craniopagus conjoined twins, joined at the skull. And as the book begins, they are twenty-nine: if they can only reach thirty, they will be the oldest living pair of craniopagus twins (not actually true: see penultimate paragraph). Taking it in turns, they embark on a joint memoir (Ruby being somewhat coerced into it) and Lansens’s absorbing, beautifully-crafted novel draws us into their remarkable lives.

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