S4L Book Club – The Girls

S4L Book Club - The Girls: A Novel, by Lori LansensOne of the distinct personality traits that I saw in The Girls was that Rose was the more dominant of the sisters. To me it seemed that she was the more mature of the two, taking charge in most situations. Rose literally carried Ruby around. Did you have the same impression?

The fact that I viewed Rose and Ruby in this light made one scene in their story particularly poignant. One of the most emotionally challenging situations they encountered was during their trip to Slovakia. Both girls viewed the area of their conjoinment (their heads, specifically that spot where the two were joined) as highly personal and private…space not to be invaded. The last thing they wanted was for anyone to touch the spot where they were conjoined. Imagine how frightened they were when they had to endure being touched, repeatedly, by people they didn’t know in a faraway land. Yet at this emotionally charged time it was Ruby who came to Rose’s rescue. Ruby realized and understood Rose’s vulnerability, and she gave Rose a gift. The gift came in some Lines I Love:

“I can’t do it,” I [Rose] whispered.
“You can,” Ruby said. “Close your eyes.”
I did.
“Think of each hand as a story or a poem you’ll write one day. Imagine that the hands aren’t taking something, but that they’re giving something.”
“Like what?” I asked, petulant.

I read that section over and over, savoring it and the emotion it conveyed.

Did any particular story of the girls’ lives strike you in a similar fashion?

Categories: Reading

4 replies »

  1. Hmm…dominant. I’m not sure about that.

    For starters, it was Rose’s story, so even though Ruby contributed sometimes, we mostly see Rose’s perspective. That gave her a stronger presence in the story, but I don’t think I understood her to be dominant over Ruby.

    Also, Ruby’s size, inability to walk, and more sickly nature makes her the physically weaker and physically dependent one, but even that didn’t necessarily make Rose seem dominant to me–other than physically.

    I think I found them pretty equal in spite of those things, and I think *they* felt they were equals, with individual strengths and weaknesses.

    I think Ruby was, in some ways, emotionally stronger than Rose. Of the two, she was the one to verbalize difficult things. Rose wanted Ruby to ask why Nick had been in jail; Rose was flabbergasted when Ruby flirted and asked Frankie to kiss her. It’s Ruby who bravely accepts their inevitable end.

    In the parts that Ruby wrote, I didn’t sense she felt Rose was dominant. In fact, she often pointed out Rose’s vulnerabilities.

  2. I agree with much of what you say here. Perhaps I chose the wrong word in “dominant”. I think you’re right in saying that the girls saw each other as equals. This could be a case of me not expressing myself clearly or well. By dominant I meant more visible, more heard, more out there. More extroverted. I didn’t mean to imply that Rose was dominant “over” Ruby.

    But I don’t think I would portray Ruby as “bravely accept[ing] their inevitable end.” I saw her acceptance like I see her personality: calmly taking things in stride. Rose, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to give up the good fight…she had too many things she wanted to do and be. You could look at the flip-side and say it was Rose who was being brave by refusing to go down without a fight.

  3. I did interpret “dominant” as dominant over Ruby.

    Remember the part when they arrived at the house in Slovakia and they took turns moving their heads as they looked around? Rose described it as instinctively alternating control of their joint head motion. I liked that image and the cooperation it demonstrated.

    That’s a completely valid flip-side: Rose not being finished with life–she was more ambitious than Ruby–and refusing to go down without a fight.

    Hmm…I’m just now connecting Rose’s ambition with the fact that she is the mobile one. Maybe some of Ruby’s calm acceptance comes from a lifetime of being physically unable to move herself. It seems to fit her character. Good job, Lori Lansens!