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Great Families in CanLit

By kileyturner
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Natural Order

Natural Order

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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“It’s beautiful,” I said, even though it wasn’t my style. It was cut glass and silver. Something a movie star might wear. Is this what my boy thought of me? I wondered as he fastened it around my neck. He called me Elizabeth Taylor and I laughed and laughed. I wore that necklace throughout the rest of the day. In spite of its garishness, I was surprised by how I felt: glamourous, special. I was out of my element amidst my kitchen cupboards and self-hemmed curtains. I almost believed in …

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The buzzers keep me awake at night. That’s one thing that hasn’t gone—my hearing. Most everything else has faded. My taste. Vision. Even my voice, which comes out sounding like a scratch in the air.
 
The buzzers bleat in the hallway like robot sheep. We keep our strings close to us so they’re easy to reach and pull. Mine is attached to my purse. Before I go to bed, I always set my purse on my night table. During the day, when I’m in my room, I keep it on my bed. I always have it near. Sometimes, at night, when the sounds wake me, I’ll stare at my purse until I fall asleep again. It’s not a particularly nice purse. I don’t even think it’s real leather.
 
Most of the buzzers you hear aren’t for what you’d call real emergencies. Usually, someone needs an extra blanket. Or someone had a bad dream. More often than not, I think people pull the buzzer just to see how long it takes for someone to come to their room. I did that, the first few months after I came here. I’d pull the string and count the seconds, panic building.
 
17, 18, 19
 
What if I’d fallen out of bed? What if I was having a heart attack?
 
34, 35
 
What if I’d broken my hip?
 
42
 
What if I was dead?
 
Joyce Sparks.
 
My name is on the wall outside my room next to a straw hat with a yellow ribbon and a couple of glued-on daisies. The hat reminds me of my sister, Helen, although it isn’t hers. The social coordinator had us make our own hats for a tea party last spring. I don’t know why someone decided to hang my hat outside the door. I didn’t do a nice job of it. I’ve never been good at crafts. I don’t have the patience.
 
Ruth Schueller is the name on the other side of the door. She’s my roommate. She doesn’t have a hat next to her name because she wasn’t at the home in the spring. Instead, there’s a black-and-white photograph beside Ruth’s name, taken during her younger years. I hardly recognize her. Frightening how much damage time does to a face. Ruth is eighty-two. I turned eighty-six in July.
 
Ruth snores something awful. Not at night, usually. But during her daytime naps, she makes the most horrific sounds. She’ll fall asleep in her wheelchair and her head will fl op down like a dead weight. That’s when the snoring starts. Some days, it’s so loud I can’t concentrate on the television, even when the volume is turned up all the way—which it usually is. I’ll have to throw the Yellow Pages at her. (Never at her head, although I’ve been tempted. Only at her feet.) Then I’ll watch her out of the corner of my eye as she tries to sort things out. What was that noise? Where did this Yellow Pages come from?
 
Last week, I wheeled into the bathroom and found my hairbrush on the back of the toilet tank. This bothered me because I always keep my brush next to the faucet. I wheeled out of the bathroom, carrying my brush like a miniature sword.
 
“RUTH, DID YOU TOUCH THIS?”
 
She blinked back at me like I was talking another language.
 
“IT’S NOT RIGHT!” I said. “YOU CAN’T DO THINGS LIKE THAT!”
 
I don’t know why they can’t give me a roommate who can talk. Ruth is the second mute person I’ve had in the past year. She replaced Margaret, who was also soft in the head. She’d sit in her chair, knuckle deep inside a nostril for most of the day.
 
“If you find an escape route up there, let me know,” I’d say to her. Then Margaret’s liver shut down and she turned bronze. She lay in her bed, day after day, while a string of family members I’d never seen before came in and out of our room. They stood at her bedside, joisted fingers over their bellies, looking down at Margaret and shaking their heads as though this was one of the greatest tragedies they’d ever witnessed.
 
It’s not nice having someone die in your room. I’ll say that much. I woke up in the middle of the night, the sheep bleating in the distance, and even though I couldn’t see her, I knew Margaret was gone. There was a stillness in the air, a cold pocket. I thought about reaching for my purse, but then wondered if it mattered. I didn’t want to deal with the commotion that would follow: the lights turning on, whispers, white sheets. So I lay there with my hands at my sides and said a short prayer for Margaret. Although she couldn’t talk, I could tell by her eyes that she’d been a good person. Kind. Gentle.
 
She hadn’t deserved her fate. After a while, I fell back asleep. One week later, Ruth moved in. She’d been living on the second floor where the other soft-headed people are, but her family wanted her on my floor, the fourth. Did they think she’d be more stimulated up here?
 
I suppose it could be worse. There’s Mae MacKenzie down the hall, trapped with that horrible Dorothy Dawson. Dorothy keeps the divider curtains shut so the room is cut in half. She even safety-pinned the flaps together. She means business.
 
“She trapped herself in once,” Mae told me. “Kept pawing her way around, trying to find the opening. It was the best entertainment I’ve had here yet.”
 
Dorothy doesn’t talk to anyone. Mae says she’s a bitter woman. There’s been some talk of a husband who had wandering hands. A daughter into drugs.
 
 “Some people get a rough ride in life,” Mae said with a slow shake of her head.
 
I held my tongue.
 
The room that Ruth and I share is small, but big enough for two beds, two dressers and two wheelchairs, which I suppose is all the space that a couple of old ladies need. We’re on the south side of the building, so we don’t have the nice view of the lake. Instead, we face the street. I guess I can’t afford the lakeside setting. I’m guessing because I don’t know for certain. My niece, Marianne, handles my finances. She lives in Brampton. I call her once a month or so, but we don’t talk for more than five minutes. It always seems like someone is pulling on her arm. The last time I saw her was January. She showed up in my doorway wearing a dark brown blouse. She’d put on weight.
 
“Happy belated New Year, Aunt Joyce,” she said and sat down on the edge of my bed.
 
She looked like a bonbon left out on a hot day.
 
I shouldn’t be critical. That was Helen’s problem—always after Marianne and her son, Mark, to live up to some idea of perfection. Now look at them. Marianne is fat and divorced and Mark had a heart bypass two years ago. But I was grateful for Marianne’s company that day. I don’t have visitors, and living here makes you feel removed from the simplest things. I don’t remember the last time I went grocery shopping. Or to Sears. Or ate in a restaurant. Or visited the cemetery.
 
Sometimes, when I look around my room, I think, “This is the last place I’ll live.” When I go, they’ll be able to pack all my belongings in a cardboard box. I like to think I’m simplifying my life. Maybe it’s the other way around.
 
I’ve been here at Chestnut Park for six years. Marianne pressured me into it. I’d fallen in the bedroom in my senior’s apartment. I couldn’t be trusted on my own anymore.
 
“You’ve always taken care of others, Aunt Joyce,” she said to me. “Now it’s time to let people take care of you.”
 
I hadn’t taken care of anyone in my life. If anything, the opposite was true. But I was too tired and frightened to argue. My arm was stained with bruises and my ankle was swollen like a cantaloupe. I’d lain there, sprawled out between the bed and my dresser, for what seemed a lifetime. (They figured it was close to a day before the superintendent let himself in. Imagine my relief—and my shame when he found me on the floor, my legs wide open.)
 
I don’t remember much of the time in between. What I mean is, the time between my fall and the superintendent coming in. I was in and out of consciousness. I know I tried to reach for the telephone on the night table. And I remember seeing how dusty the floor was under my bed. Cobwebs everywhere. I was mortified. I wondered if these were the kinds of thoughts people had while they waited to die: the embarrassment of filth and the fear of discovery.
 
Mostly, I thought of my son.
 
There aren’t many bright spots in our days, but Hilda, the social coordinator, tries to keep us entertained. Every now and then, she brings in a children’s choir. Other times, there’s a tea social that only leaves us nostalgic for the lives we used to live. Once, Hilda brought in a dog. A black and brown beagle with a tail like a flagpole. I didn’t like the way it looked at me with its rheumy eyes and twitching snout. I refused to pet it.
 
“I didn’t know you were afraid of dogs,” Hilda said.
 
“I’m not,” I said. Then, because I knew that answer would likely lead to more questions, I said, “I’m not good with animals.”
 
I sit with three other people during meals: Irene, Henry and Jim. We don’t talk much. Mainly nudge and point to the things we need. Irene chews with her mouth open. Half the food tumbles out and down her bib and onto the table. It’s nauseating, and if I don’t keep my eyes down at all times, I lose my appetite. I told one of the nurses that I wanted to move to another table and she said she’d look into it, but I know that nothing will come of it. Nothing comes of anything in this place. The staff don’t listen to you. They bully you into taking your pills or making your poops or eating your food so that they can leave for home. I watch them tear across the parking lot towards their cars, a blur of uniform.
 
I do my best to finish my fish sticks, but they’re horrible. Soggy. The cooks bake them, which I know is healthier. But I’m eighty-six now. I’ll take my chances with trans fats. All around me, I hear the clatter of cutlery against plates and the occasional wet plop of something hitting the floor. Someone starts hacking (likely that woman from 405—she’s a smoker) and I think how sad that these are my final meals.
 
After lunch, I’m wheeled back to my room and positioned between the bed and the wall. I’ll usually try to nap in the afternoon as it helps to quicken the wait until dinner, but Ruth is already passed out in her chair. I press my eyes shut, willing myself to fall asleep before the snoring starts, but it’s a lost cause.
 
“Hello, Joyce.”
 
I look up to see Hilda coming into the room. She’s a tall woman, although everyone seems tall when you’re in a wheelchair. There’s a strand of chunky turquoise beads around her neck.
 
“How was lunch?” She sits down at the foot of my bed.
 
“Fine,” I say. “We had fish. Is it Friday?”
 
She nods. “Are you Catholic?”
 
“United,” I say.
 
“They have a service every Sunday downstairs.”
 
“I know.”
 
“Are you a religious woman?”
 
“Not particularly. But we’ll see what happens on my deathbed.”
 
“I have a new volunteer starting tonight. A young man. Do you mind if I send him to you?”
 
“What does he want?” Most of the volunteers are women.
 
“Nothing. He’s coming for conversation or errands or whatever you like.” She leans in and lowers her voice. “He goes by Timothy. Not Tim. He was quite firm about that.”
 
She waits for me to respond. I say nothing.
 
“A friend once told me that when a man goes by the long version of his name, chances are . . .” She laughs. “It’s nice, though, having a male volunteer for once.”
 
There are a handful of puffy women volunteers, running around before the bake sales or planting impatiens in the front garden, their eyeglass strings swaying this way and that. Well intentioned, I suppose, but intrusive. They make me uncomfortable when they come into my room, asking if my plants need watering or my pillows need fluffing or my water jug needs filling. No, no and no, I say, anxious for them to leave. I don’t need their short-breathed fussing. This is my room. I didn’t ask for their help, did I?
 
“Timothy will be coming in after dinner,” Hilda says, standing up from the bed. “Around seven.” She glances over at Ruth, who is now sucking back air like it’s food at a buffet.
 
“I think you’ll like him, Joyce.”
 
“The only thing I’d like . . .” I begin. Hilda leans towards me, waiting. She wants something from me. A surrender.
 
This will make her dogs and choirs worthwhile.
 
“The only thing I’d like is a nap,” I say.
 
For some reason, I never thought I’d spend my final years in Balsden, even though it’s the only place I’ve ever lived. I grew up on Shaw Street, and then spent my married life on Marian Street. After I sold the house, I moved into a seniors’ apartment building on Finch Avenue. Now I’m here. And while
 
Balsden is a small city of forty thousand, it’s only now that I realize how tiny my world has been. The four cornerstones of my life have been within a ten-minute drive of one another.
 
“There isn’t anything on earth you can’t find in your own backyard,” my mother used to say.
 
I remember as a girl standing on our back porch, contemplating the pine trees and the wire fence that circled the yard, the laundry poles and the ants whose grey-sugar castles sprang from the cracks in the concrete. I believed in these things and my mother’s words. Perhaps, in some ways, I still do. In other ways, I think they’re lies.
 
I was certain I’d end up in Andover, a much larger city, only forty minutes from Balsden via the double-lane highway or the old one with its winding single lane winding through towns and farmers’ fields. Life seemed better in Andover. People were cut from a different cloth. There was a university and a downtown park with a bandshell and a rink where people went skating in the winter. When we were young, my best friend, Fern, my older sister, Helen, and I would take the train to go shopping for back-to-school clothes. That seems so far back in the past, I question it. That’s the problem with getting old. Time bends and shifts. Memories spring up, uprooted. Sometimes, I’m not sure if my life happened the way I remember it, and there’s no one left to verify the facts. Fern moved to Andover after she sold her house. She had a cousin there and asked me to go with her.
 
“We’ll get an apartment,” she said. “Raise some hell.”
 
But I was grounded by fear, afraid that my money would run out in a larger, more expensive city. And I had to consider Helen. She’d been in and out of the hospital on account of her heart. When she died a year later, I reconsidered. There was nothing left for me in Balsden. I was alone. But then Fern was found dead one morning. And when her cousin called to tell me, I became aware of something I never thought possible: that solitude had another floor down.
 
No matter. Maybe I deserved it. No freedom for someone like me. No respite from guilt. Everything I ever did in life, I did wrong. Everything I touched, I destroyed.
 
I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to watch my soap opera. I wish I had a pair of earphones. Stupid Ruth. Oh, it doesn’t matter. My mind is fl uttering around like a distracted bird anyway. Timothy. Not Tim. I rub my hands, trying to loosen muscles that feel more like strips of jerky.
 
A while later, an attendant comes in with our afternoon snack. Today, I get two digestive cookies and a blood pressure pill.
 
“You’re looking well today, Mrs. Sparks,” I’m told. It’s the Filipina woman. I forget her name and I can’t read her badge. She’s just a wisp of a thing, a pink peppermint stick in her uniform. “How are you feeling?”
 
“My neck hurts,” I say, even though it’s no better or worse than usual. “My hands, too.”
 
“Mmm-hmm,” Filipina woman says, tipping the contents of the tiny white cup into my palm. She hands me a glass of apple juice with a straw bent like an elbow. I could’ve told her I was pregnant and she would’ve asked me if I wanted ice in my glass.

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Fall on Your Knees

Fall on Your Knees

edition:Paperback

Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book

Following the curves of history in the first half of the twentieth century, Fall On Your Knees takes us from haunted Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, through the battle fields of World War One, to the emerging jazz scene of New York city and into the lives of four unforgettable sisters. The mythically charged Piper family--James, a father of intelligence and immense ambition, Materia, his Lebanese child-bride, and their daughters: Kathleen, …

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Excerpt

Silent Pictures

They're all dead now.

Here's a picture of the town where they lived. New Waterford. It's a night bright with the moon. Imagine you are looking down from the height of a church steeple, onto the vivid gradations of light and shadow that make the picture. A small mining town near cutaway cliffs that curve over narrow rock beaches below, where the silver sea rolls and rolls, flattering the moon. Not many trees, thin grass. The silhouette of a colliery, iron tower against a slim pewter sky with cables and supports sloping at forty-five-degree angles to the ground. Railway tracks that stretch only a short distance from the base of a gorgeous high slant of glinting coal, towards an archway in the earth where the tracks slope in and down and disappear. And spreading away from the collieries and coal heaps are the peaked roofs of the miners' houses built row on row by the coal company. Company houses. Company town.

Look down over the street where they lived. Water Street. An avenue of packed dust and scattered stones that leads out past the edge of town to where the wide, keeling graveyard overlooks the ocean. That sighing sound is just the sea.

Here's a picture of their house as it was then. White, wood frame with the covered veranda. It's big compared to the miners' houses. There's a piano in the front room. In the back is the kitchen where Mumma died.

Here's a picture of her the day she died. She had a stroke while cleaning the oven. Which is how the doctor put it. Of course you can't see her face for the oven, but you can see where she had her stockings rolled down for housework and, although this is a black and white picture, her house-dress actually is black since she was in mourning for Kathleen at the time, as well as Ambrose. You can't tell from this picture, but Mumma couldn't speak English very well. Mercedes found her like that, half in half out of the oven like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. What did she plan to cook that day? When Mumma died, all the eggs in the pantry went bad - they must have because you could smell that sulphur smell all the way down Water Street.

So that's the house at 191 Water Street, New Waterford, Cape Breton Island, in the far eastern province of Nova Scotia, Canada. And that's Ma on the day she died, June 23, 1919.

Here's a picture of Daddy. He's not dead, he's asleep. You see that armchair he's in? That's the pale green wingback. His hair is braided. That's not an ethnic custom. They were only ethnic on Mumma's side. Those are braids that Lily put in his hair while he was asleep.

There are no pictures of Ambrose, there wasn't time for that. Here's a picture of his crib still warm.

Other Lily is in limbo. She lived a day, then died before she could be baptized, and went straight to limbo along with all the other unbaptized babies and the good heathens. They don't suffer, they just sort of hang there effortlessly and unaware. Jesus is known to have gone into limbo occasionally and taken a particularly good heathen out of it and up to heaven. So it is possible. Otherwise....That's why this picture of Other Lily is a white blank.

Don't worry. Ambrose was baptized.

Here's one of Mercedes. That opal rosary of hers was basically priceless. An opal rosary, can you imagine? She kept it pinned to the inside of her brassiere, over her heart, at all times when she wasn't using it. Partly for divine protection, partly out of the convenience of never being without the means to say a quick decade of the beads when the spirit moved her, which was often. Although, as Mercedes liked to point out, you can say the rosary with any objects at hand if you find yourself in need of a prayer but without your beads. For example, you can say it with pebbles or breadcrumbs. Frances wanted to know, could you say the rosary with cigarette butts? The answer was yes, if you're pure at heart. With mouse turds? With someone's freckles? The dots in a newspaper photograph of Harry Houdini? That's enough, Frances. In any case, this is a picture of Mercedes, holding her opal rosary, with one finger raised and pressed against her lips. She's saying, "Shshsh."

And this is Frances. But wait, she's not in it yet. This one is a moving picture. It was taken at night, behind the house. There's the creek, flowing black and shiny between its narrow banks. And there's the garden on the other side. Imagine you can hear the creek trickling. Like a girl telling a secret in a language so much like our own. A still night, a midnight clear. It's only fair to tell you that a neighbour once saw the dismembered image of his son in this creek, only to learn upon his arrival home for supper that his son had been crushed to death by a fall of stone in Number 12 Mine.

But tonight the surface of the creek is merely as Nature made it. And certainly it's odd but not at all supernatural to see the surface break, and a real live soaked and shivering girl rise up from the water and stare straight at us. Or at someone just behind us. Frances. What's she doing in the middle of the creek, in the middle of the night? And what's she hugging to her chest with her chicken-skinny arms? A dark wet bundle. Did it stir just now? What are you doing, Frances?

But even if she were to answer, we wouldn't know what she was saying, because, although this is a moving picture, it is also a silent one.

All the pictures of Kathleen were destroyed. All except one. And it's been put away.

Kathleen sang so beautifully that God wanted her to sing for Him in heaven with His choir of angels. So He took her.

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A Large Harmonium

A Large Harmonium

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

English Lit professor Janey Erlicksen wonders if she's coming unravelled, as her daily life progresses through the onslaught from work, friends and family, and her despotic toddler Little Max.

Janey knows she should be trying to put her academic career on the map, but how? She'll more readily poke fun at than engage in yet another overly dry and theoretical conference. And her husband and their friends simply encourage her off the serious academic path, providing anarchic ideas from Foucault-in-s …

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The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover Paperback
tagged : literary

Gorgeous twins Noushcka and Nicolas Tremblay live with their grandfather Loulou in a tiny, sordid apartment on Saint Laurent Boulevard in Montreal. They are hopelessly promiscuous, wildly funny and infectiously charming; the darlings of their down-and-out neighborhood. They are also the only children of the legendary French Canadian folk singer etienne Tremblay, who was famous for not just his brilliant lyrics about working-class life but also his philandering bon vivant lifestyle and his fall f …

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The Girls

The Girls

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

In Lori Lansens’ astonishing second novel, readers come to know and love two of the most remarkable characters in Canadian fiction. Rose and Ruby are twenty-nine-year-old conjoined twins. Born during a tornado to a shocked teenaged mother in the hospital at Leaford, Ontario, they are raised by the nurse who helped usher them into the world. Aunt Lovey and her husband, Uncle Stash, are middle-aged and with no children of their own. They relocate from the town to the drafty old farmhouse in the …

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Excerpt

ruby & me

~

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 used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. 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 thousand lives as me, to be loved so ­exponentially.

My sister, Ruby, and I, by mishap or miracle, having intended to divide from a single fertilized egg, remained joined instead, by a spot the size of a bread plate on the sides of our twin heads. We’re known to the world medical community as the oldest surviving craniopagus twins (we are twenty-­nine years old) and to millions around the globe, those whose interest in people like us is more than just passing, as conjoined craniopagus twins Rose and Ruby Darlen of Baldoon County. 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.”

Raise your right hand. Press the base of your palm to the lobe of your right ear. Cover your ear and fan out your fingers – that’s where my sister and I are affixed, our faces not quite side by side, our skulls fused together in a circular pattern running up the temple and curving around the frontal lobe. If you glance at us, you might think we’re two women embracing, leaning against the other ­tête-­à-­tête, the way sisters do.

Ruby and I are identical twins and would be identical looking, having high foreheads like our mother and wide, full mouths, except that Ruby’s face is arranged quite nicely (in fact, Ruby is very beautiful), whereas my features are misshapen and frankly grotesque. My right eye slants steeply towards the place my right ear would have been if my sister’s head had not grown there instead. My nose is longer than Ruby’s, one nostril wider than the other, pulled to the right of my brown slanted eye. My lower jaw shifts to the left, slurring my speech and giving a husky quality to my voice. Patches of eczema rouge my cheeks, while Ruby’s complexion is fair and flawless. Our scalps marry in the middle of our conjoined heads, but my frizzy hair has a glint of auburn, while my sister is a swingy brunette. Ruby has a deep cleft in her chin, which people find ­endearing.

I’m five feet five inches tall. When we were born, my limbs were symmetrical, in proportion to my body. Presently, my right leg is a full three inches shorter than my left, my spine compressed, my right hip cocked, and all because I have carried my sister like an infant, since I was a baby myself, Ruby’s tiny thighs astride my hip, my arm supporting her posterior, her arm forever around my neck. Ruby is my sister. And strangely, undeniably, my ­child.

There is some discomfort in our conjoinment. Ruby and I experience mild to severe neck, jaw, and shoulder pain, for which we take physiotherapy three times a week. The strain on my body is constant, as I bear Ruby’s weight, as I tote Ruby on my hip, as I struggle to turn Ruby over in our bed or perch on my stool beside the toilet for what seems like hours. (Ruby has a multitude of bowel and urinary tract problems.) We are challenged, certainly, and uncomfortable, sometimes, but neither Ruby nor I would describe our conjoinment as painful.

It’s difficult to explain our locomotion as conjoined twins or how it developed from birth using grunts and gestures and what I suppose must be telepathy. There are days when, like a normal person, we’re clumsy and uncoordinated. We have less natural symbiosis when one of us (usually Ruby) is sick, but mostly our dance is a smooth one. We hate doing things in unison, such as answering yes or no at the same time. We never finish each other’s sentences. We can’t shake our heads at once or nod (and wouldn’t if we could – see above). We have an unspoken, even unconscious, system of checks and balances to determine who’ll lead the way at any given moment. There is conflict. There is ­compromise.

Ruby and I share a common blood supply. My blood flows normally in the left side of my brain, but the blood in my right (the connected side) flows to my sister’s left, and vice versa for her. It’s estimated that we share a web of one hundred veins as well as our skull bones. Our cerebral tissue is fully enmeshed, our vascular systems snarled like briar bushes, but our brains themselves are separate and functioning. Our thoughts are distinctly our own. Our selves have struggled fiercely to be unique and, in fact, we’re more different than most identical twins. I like sports, but I’m also bookish, while Ruby is girlie and prefers television. When Ruby is tired, I’m hardly ever ready for bed. We’re rarely hungry together and our tastes are poles apart: I prefer spicy fare, while my sister has a disturbing fondness for ­eggs.

Ruby believes in God and ghosts and reincarnation. (Ruby won’t speculate on her next incarnation though, as if imagining something different from what she is now would betray us both.) I believe the best the dead can hope for is to be conjured from time to time, through a note of haunting music or a passage in a book.

I’ve never set eyes on my sister, except in mirror images and photographs, but I know Ruby’s gestures as my own, through the movement of her muscles and bone. I love my sister as I love myself. I hate her that way too.
This is the story of my life. I’m calling it “Autobiography of a Conjoined Twin.” But since my sister claims that it can’t technically (“technically” is Ruby’s current favourite word) be considered an autobiography and is opposed to my telling what she considers our story, I have agreed that she should write some chapters from her point of view. I will strive to tell my story honestly, allowing that my truth will be coloured a shade different from my sister’s and acknowledging that it’s sometimes necessary for the writer to connect the dots.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Modern Classics Last of the Crazy People

Modern Classics Last of the Crazy People

edition:Paperback

While other 11-year-old boys are preoccupied with things like hockey, television and having fun, Hooker broods about his dysfunctional home-life. With a mother who refuses to leave her room, a brother in an alcoholic haze and a father who's unable to hold things together, Hooker's world is one of bewilderment and conflict. Feeling alone and unhappy, the young boy seeks to put an end to all of the confusion in The Last of the Crazy People, Timothy Findley's astonishing debut novel.

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Vinyl Cafe Diaries

Vinyl Cafe Diaries

edition:Hardcover
tagged :

 

In Vinyl Cafe Diaries, master storyteller and humorist Stuart McLean takes us into the deepest recesses of The Vinyl Cafe. Learn all about the secret lives and hidden passions of the seemingly ordinary folk from the radio show.

 

What is Dave doing by himself in a Halifax hotel room with a duck?

What purloined item has Sam surreptitiously stuffed under his mattress and why?

What is it about the book club that Mary Turlington doesn’t dare tell Morley?

Why is Morley skulking around with a …

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One Good Hustle

One Good Hustle

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

From award-winning writer Billie Livingston, an unsparing novel of loyalty and survival that is fierce, sharp and funny even when it's breaking your heart.
 
The child of 2 con artists, 16-year-old Sammie Bell always prided herself on knowing the score. But now she finds herself backed into a corner. After a hustle gone dangerously wrong, her mother, Marlene, is sliding into an abyss of alcoholic depression, spending her days fantasizing aloud about death--a goal Sammie is tempted to help her a …

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