Monday, December 5, 2016

Bib-li-o-phile Friday: 5 disabled character

Hi! I'm really loving, but not really succeeding in participating in, all these great weekly memes! Anyway... Apparently December 2nd was National (U.S.) Special Education Day, so last week's Bib-li-o-phile Friday (hosted by Whoo Gives a Hoot and Foxes and Fairy Tales), which I missed!, was to list five books featuring characters with disabilities, and give a more in-depth description or overview of one of them. I have to admit that this was a bit of a challenge for me... But the goal was to find books that feature disabled characters, so that means they don't have to be the main character, right? And it says characters with disabilities, which could be physical as well as mental, right? That's what I'm going with, to make this easier. ;) Ok, here goes...

1. The Girls by Lori Lansens
This book is about a set of conjoined twins, Rose and Ruby, joined at the head. Rose has a perfect and healthy body, but her face is disfigured where they are connected. Ruby has a beautiful face, but a small and sickly body, which her sister has to carry on her hip.

2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
First off, the title of this book is extremely misleading. The disabled character in this story is Phoebe, who has Down's Syndrome. Her biological father, who delivered her, had his nurse take her away when he realized her disability, and told his wife the child had died. The nurse couldn't bear the thought of leaving the baby at the orphanage/disabled home, so she ran away with her and raised her as her own.

3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This story is about main character Alice, and her journey through the discovery and progression of early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. It is incredibly touching and scary (realism), and by all accounts I've read, quite an accurate description of the early stages of Alzheimer's.

4. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
The story is about two patients at an institution called the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded; Lynnie, who has developmental disabilities, and Homan, a deaf African-American man. They fall in love, Lynnie becomes pregnant, and they run away together to start their family. Plans don't work out quite the way they would have liked (Homan on the run and Lynnie back in the institution), but the baby is born in secret and raised outside of the institution.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
The main character, Christopher, is Autistic. He believes his neighbour's dog was murdered, and sets out to solve the mystery using the tactics of his favourite detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Feature: The Girls by Lori Lansens

“We’ve been called many things: freaks, horrors, monsters, devils, witches, retards, wonders, marvels. To most, we’re a curiosity. In small-town Leaford, where we live and work, we’re just ‘The Girls.’” 

Rose and Ruby Darlen are closer than most twin sisters. Indeed, they have spent their twenty-nine years on earth joined at the head. Given that they share a web of essential veins, there is no possibility that they can be separated in their lifetime. 

Born in a small town in the midst of a tornado, the sisters are abandoned by their frightened teenaged mother and create a circus-like stir in the medical community. The attending nurse, however, sees their true beauty and decides to adopt them. Aunt Lovey is a warm-hearted, no-nonsense woman married to a gentle immigrant butcher, Uncle Stash. The middle-aged couple moves to a farm where the girls – “not hidden but unseen” – can live as normal a life as possible. 

For identical twins, Rose and Ruby are remarkably different both on the inside and out. Ruby has a beautiful face whereas Rose’s features are, in her own words, “misshapen and frankly grotesque.” And whereas Rose’s body is fully formed, Ruby’s bottom half is dwarfish – with her tiny thighs resting on Rose’s hip, she must be carried around like a small child or doll. The differences in their tastes are no less distinct. A poet and avid reader, Rose is also huge sports fan. Ruby, on the other hand, would sooner watch television than crack open a book – that is, anything but sports. They are rarely ready for bed at the same time and whereas Rose loves spicy food, Ruby has a “disturbing fondness for eggs.”  

On the eve of their thirtieth birthday, Rose sets out to write her autobiography. But because their lives have been so closely shared, Ruby insists on contributing the occasional chapter. And so, as Rose types away on her laptop, the technophobic Ruby scribbles longhand on a yellow legal pad. They’ve established one rule for their co-writing venture: neither is allowed to see what the other has written. Together, they tell the story of their lives as the world’s oldest surviving craniopagus twins – the literary Rose and straight-talking Ruby often seeing the same event in wildly different ways. Despite their extreme medical condition, the sisters express emotional truths that every reader will identify with: on losing a loved one, the hard lessons of compromise, the first stirrings of sexual desire, the pain of abandonment, and the transcendent power of love. 

Rose and Ruby Darlen of Baldoon County, Ontario, are two of the most extraordinary and unforgettable characters to spring into our literature. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “The novel's power lies in the wonderful narrative voices of Rose and Ruby. Lansens has created a richly nuanced, totally believable sibling relationship... An unsentimental, heartwarming page-turner.” The National Post writes: “Lansens’s beautiful writing is so detailed that it is often easy to forget that the material is not based on a true story. She captures what it would be like never to sleep, bathe, go for a walk, or meet friends on your own.”

It's been a really long time since I read this book, a couple of years, and I'm not exactly sure where the book is at the moment (probably in a bin in the attic...), so the best I can do is paste the above synopsis from and try my best to remember anything else I can... Which isn't much. You will remember that one of my main reasons for starting this blog was as a means for me to remember which books I've read, so... if it isn't already blogged here, there's a good chance I don't remember much about it.

I don't even honestly remember where I got this book from. I feel like it was a gift, but I can't remember who from, or what the occasion was... It was either a gift, or I picked it up (new) at my local new & used bookshop Black Cat Books, simply because it sounded interesting and the cover was pretty - this is often the way it goes with me and books. I do occasionally read books based on the recommendations of others, but for the most part I just pick up books that look & sound interesting and I buy them. *shrug*

I do remember that this story helped feed my fascination with twins and, in particular, identical twins. I don't have any particular fascination with conjoined twins, but it's always interesting just the same. I love how that identical twins have this super close bond that nobody else can really understand. How they can know what the other is thinking, finish their sentences, feel what they feel. It's amazing. Of course, conjoined twins is a completely different story, but still.

I don't remember everything that happened (aside from arguments and falling in love and heartbreak), but my overall feeling after reading it was good. It's written from the points of view of both girls, which is always fun. Reading about the same experience from two different points of view is always enlightening. Everyone remembers events differently, especially depending on how they felt during the event.

Even though I can't remember everything that happened in the book, I would recommend it. :)

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