S4L Book Club–The Girls

S4L Book Club - The Girls, by Lori LansensWoo-hoo! Who’s ready to discuss The Girls?

I loved this book: a novel posing as an autobiography of a conjoined twin. That’s a hook that grabs me. A conjoined twin is an unusual character, a fascinating and curious character. I’ve never known, or even seen in person, conjoined twins. I immediately want to know more.

The curiosity draws me in, but what makes me love the characters is how wonderfully familiar and normal they are. They are, after all, just women.

A question I’ve been asking myself is Would I have enjoyed the same story had it been about twins who were not conjoined, or perhaps just siblings? I realize that the conjoinment is integral to the story, that the experiences Rose and Ruby had were in no small part due to their situation, so maybe this is an impossible question, but I wonder nonetheless. If you take away being joined at the head, does the story lose its luster?

Also, get a load of that cover. Ruby’s legs were tiny useless things with club feet at the end. Rose carried her. Those cannot be Rose and Ruby’s legs and feet. Does that bother anyone but me?

Categories: Reading

7 replies »

  1. I noticed the cover, too and it irritated me.
    I asked myself the same question about whether the book would work if the sisters wern’t conjoined- I think that the relationship would not be nearly so intriguing.
    I actually worked with three sets of conjoined twins during their stays in the NICU where I used to work. Two sets died fairly soon after birth, but one pair lived for several months and everyone involved in their care came to love them very much. One of the things that rings true in the book (which I still haven’t finished) is how complete and individual each of the girls is. I saw this even in the tiny people I knew.

  2. I have started on the Girls today, and I am sorry for the delay. I do like the start, the sentences and the way she writes. I am unsure about the picture on the cover of the book: it is clearly not the conjoin-twins, but it is a picture of two young people sitting very close and swinging their legs individually, and a picture I associate with happy summer days, and maybe the conj-twins had a lot of happy days together? I will read more to see if it is so. Maybe a true picture of them would have turned into a freak show-mood? Is the cover chosen avoid this? Is it to let reader meet the tow persons and not see them as one? I do not know. Still the picture is a happy one.

  3. What a nitwit I am. I looked at the cover of the book literally hundreds of times, and not once did it occur to me that something was amiss. How embarrassing, now that you point it out!

    I think that Harriet makes some excellent points about the cover. A photo of the two of them (or just their legs) probably would have been freak showish…and the book did a great job of pointing out how very normal the girls were. To add to that, I think some of their happy, quiet times were spent at the creek on the bridge behind their house. Just the two of them. The photo evokes more of a feeling of the two of them together, rather than a literal picture of the girls.

    Becca, I’m sorry to hear of the deaths of the conjoined twins you cared for. How was it working with the parents of the twins? Did the parents know ahead of time that they were conjoined? Did they seem to struggle with the fact of the conjoinment, or were they simply trying to cope with the health status of the children? What an overwhelming time it must have been for them.

  4. I’m not going to let the publishers off the hook for the image. “Pretty” shouldn’t trump “real.” I think the image is dishonest. You can avoid a freak show angle without being dishonest.

    Here’s what I want the cover to be: From the back, without showing the conjoined head, the girls with their arms around each other. They could be sitting on the bridge if you want.

    Their arms were always around each other. It’s a sweet image of affection. It’s natural, accurate, and not at all freak-showish.

    What do you think? What other possibilities do you see?

  5. I love that image, Jen! I agree with the comments everyone makes, but really go with Jen. (What can I say? I’m a suck-up!) Seriously, I didn’t want a shocking or grotesque cover, but I resent the lie.

    @Shelly- I don’t think the parents knew the babies were conjoined until they were delivered, but I honestly can’t remember. All of the twins I knew were what would be called thoracopagus- joined at the trunk. Two pairs were truely face to face and the third joined more on the side. All of them shared a heart- not good for long-term survival- and some other systems. The parents were all amazing- generally, they were focused on the medical plight of their children and had little opportunity to contemplate what life would be like in the long term for the girls. (Interesting, they were all girls and so are most of the cases I’ve heard of.)
    In each case, separation was discussed with the parents. This would have involved chosing one twin to receive the heart and sacrificing the other.At the time I was involved with these cases (15 to 20 years ago), the longest the twin receiving the heart had lived was 2 days after the surgery. None of the parents I knew chose to separate, even though they realized that the babies were almost certain to die. They seemed to have a sense of wanting to keep the babies “whole”. I recall them as brave and loving.

  6. Suck-up. Yeah. Right.

    What interesting experiences in NICU!

    If all the twins had just one heart, you’d think the doctors and parents would know they were joined from sonograms, wouldn’t you?