The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee [Review]

28691882Title: The Conjoined
Author: Jen Sookfong Lee
Type: Fiction
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Publisher: ECW Press
Date published: September 13, 2016
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 272
Source: Publisher

A physical copy of the book was kindly provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery ― two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng ― troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

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This book first caught my eye back in May, when a catalog from ECW Press was delivered to the place where I was doing my internship. The cover drew my attention initially, and once I read the description, I knew that I had to read this book. When it arrived in the mail, the first thing I noticed was that the colours used on the cover had a pearly sheen to them, which I found to look very pretty (and I wish that my camera was able to capture it, but alas…)

Based upon the description, I was expecting a murder mystery with a typical and cliche relationship between a detective and a civilian (I don’t know if that’s a common trope, I just happened to have read a lot of mysteries like that). And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there were a lot more layers to this book than what I had predicted.

the-conjoinedIn the end, what this book ended up feeling like to me was a blend of mystery and literary fiction. There was definitely quite a bit to uncover, and while certain aspects of the book did remind me of the mystery stories I’m used to, other parts were entirely unique to me for such a narrative.

Lee’s writing is good, and while the first chapter feels a little slow (mainly because it’s setting up the story), I was irreversibly hooked after I had gotten past those first few pages. I was unable to put this book down from that point, unless I had to do things such as work, study, eat, sleep, and Christmas shop (which I did a lot of, and which was the reason why it took me longer to read this book than it normally would have for a 200+ page novel. I just wanted to put that out there in case some of you had been tracking my progress on Goodreads, and assumed that my slow reading pace was the book’s fault).

The character  were very complex with their own unique intricacies, and they all had a very distinct feel about them. They each also affected me in their own unique way, and I enjoyed that they were not all entirely “good,” and not all completely “bad” (which I found, made them feel that much more real). The characters, as well as the plot, kept me guessing about a number of things until the very end of the book, and I really enjoyed that about this read, as I dislike predictability.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy literary fiction, as well as those who appreciate intricate mysteries told in a nontraditional style, as well as complex characters and the complicated relationships between them.



Jen Sookfong Lee writes, talks on the radio and loves her slow cooker.

In 2007, Knopf Canada published Jen’s first novel, The End of East, as part of its New Face of Fiction program. Hailed as “an emotional powerhouse of a novel,” The End of East shines a light on the Chinese Canadian story, the repercussions of immigration and the city of Vancouver.

Born and raised in East Vancouver, Jen now lives in North Burnaby with her son and hoodlum of a dog.

You can visit her online at, or follow her on Twitter at @JenSookfongLee.

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5 thoughts on “The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee [Review]

  1. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    ‘A blend between mystery and literary fiction’ – perfect description of this book! I read and reviewed this one in September. I also liked the complex characters and the layers to the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flavia says:

      Ahhhh I’m glad you think so! I was wondering if I’d described it properly!

      And it’s good to know that someone else enjoyed it as well! 😊

      Thanks for reading and commenting 😀


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