Ruby and Rose Darlen are craniopagus twins, joined at the side of the head, who can never be separated because of the structure of the blood supply to their (separate) brains. Raised by the hospital nurse who adopted them after their horrified teenage mother abandoned them shortly after their birth, they live to adulthood in a small town in Canada, enjoying what must be the most normal life possible for people in such unique circumstances.
The story unfolds in memoir form, first through the voice of Rose, then eventually alternating with chapters from Ruby. At age 29 when the story begins, they are already the oldest surviving craniopagus twins on record, and their health is deteriorating. The memoir is an attempt to describe their life, and their relationship with one another, before they die. Lansens uses convincingly different voices for Rose and Ruby, without creating a distraction.
The book is at times funny, and very moving. Lansens does an extraordinary job of illustrating their lives and the difficulties they face without making it seem like a freak show. Rose and Ruby are brave, resourceful, stubborn, fearful, vulnerable; in short they are real, individual people. And at its heart, this book is the story of the love that these sisters share for one another. It’s a bond that is both typical of that shared by all sisters, and yet entirely unique.
I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon….I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousands lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.Really interesting, really good. Read it.
(Book 26, 2007)