The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee

1. First lines 2. Publisher: ECW Press 3. Girl image by Didit Permana from Pixabay
I liked this book.

Jessica’s mother Donna has died, and when she and her father are cleaning out the house, they find the bodies of two young girls in the freezer. In her search for answers, she learns more about the two girls who had been foster children in their mother’s care years ago. She also finds out more about her mother’s family and why her Grandmother was estranged from the family.

Sounds a bit sleazy but it’s not.

“I come from a family of psychopaths.”

“It didn’t take much time at all. So little, in fact, that no one remembered the two days and one night the girls went missing during a windy weekend at the beginning of October. It was a blank spot, penultimate, and so near the end that the end swallowed it up. No one saw it for what it was then, in 1988, and no one saw it for what it was twenty-eight years later.”

“Jessica stood at the kitchen window, her arms hanging at her sides, hands in pink rubber gloves. The backyard was a mess, as it had always been while her mother was alive. On the side, an unchecked patch of rhubarb was beginning to push up against a ragged camellia bush. At the back, the old bamboo stakes were still stuck in the ground, dried remnants of pea tendrils and tomato leaves partially tied with twine. Needles from the Douglas fir – taller than any other tree on the block, with a herd of starlings that never stopped complaining – lay like a pilly brown sweater over the lawn.”

Quotes from the book.
  • The Globe and Mail: The Conjoined doesn’t provide the tidy resolution that readers have come to expect from books of this nature. The ultimate twist is that there is no twist, but that lack of traditional closure seems to be exactly the point. This novel acts as a troubling reminder of how little we really know about the backstories and motivations of the people we love and trust.
  • Vancouver Sun : “The Conjoined is a quick, compelling read. But its characters and their stories will linger.”

Awards: 2018 Longlisted International Dublin Literary Award; 2017 Nominee Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize

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