May 15, 2006 12:00 PM

NOVEL

No sisters could be closer than those at the center of Lansens’s novel: Ruby and Rose are attached “by a spot the size of a bread plate on the sides of our twin heads.” Born during a tornado in 1974 and raised by a kindlynurse, they work at a library and even fall in love. But nearing 30, having beaten the medical odds, they discover that time is running out and begin writing alternate sections of a memoir. Perhaps this dual effort explains why the plot meanders a bit and then runs out of steam. But Lansens also beats the odds: A book that could have been tasteless provides a complex consideration of identity and individuality, of sameness and difference, of what it means to be normal and what it takes to feel at home in the world.

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