The Conjoined

The Conjoined

A Novel

Book - 2016
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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 deep-chest freezers. She remembers a pair of teenaged sisters who lived with the family in 1988 as foster children: Casey and Jamie Cheng troubled, beautiful, and wild. 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 and foster mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life her grief, a job she hates, and her tedious but safe relationship.
Publisher: Toronto : ECW Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781770412842
Characteristics: 264 p. ; 22 cm


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Jan 17, 2021

To me this was a very real depiction of life in Vancouver during these time periods and more importantly how mother's try their best but can still make mistakes - don't we all?

I would have to agree with ladyhawke1003 & SilverIlix and their comments on this novel and I wholeheartedly disagree with the other negative reviews as I'm not sure they understood what the author was trying to achieve here. I'm a fan of non-linear storytelling and this was a great example of that.

May 22, 2019

I had high hopes but this but is so badly written and all over the place. The author could not find a cohesive plot. Terrible terrible book.

Jan 03, 2018

'The Conjoined' by Jen Sookfong Lee was disappointing. It was something of a precious read: there was no resolution to the main plot. How did they die? Don't know. Who killed? Don't know. From the first chapter when we meet the bodies I figured by the last chapter we would know. We don't.

Apr 28, 2017

This book is heartfelt and sad, but worth reading. This type of fiction isn't my typical reading material, it's a mystery and it's deeply rooted in the feelings of the main character and her family. I read it in an evening, but never felt like the author was trying to be wordy or pander to a type of audience. The story pulled me in and I wanted to know more.

Feb 07, 2017

This is the story of two families conjoined by the social welfare system. It's a quiet, heartfelt story that poses big, loud questions. Ginny Cheng is a hardworking woman who lives in Vancouver's Chinatown and adores her daughters. Casey and Jamie Cheng are also family, by struggle, by experiences that shape their destiny. Enter Donna Campbell. Another hardworking woman; Donna longs to help all children. A foster mother, she bears the secret of her own conjoining.

The novel follows these two families for several decades, beginning in 2016, when the protagonist, Jessica Campbell, and her father are cleaning out the basement after Donna's death. In the bottom of two freezers, they discover the bodies of Casey and Jamie Cheng. Jessica remembers when they lived in this house for a brief time as foster kids in the late 1980s before they ran away. Questions arise. Did Donna kill them? Why would Donna kill them? What brought the girls to this house in the first place? What is their story?

"The next morning, they came with almost nothing: just one small backpack between the two of them and even that was only half-full. It was just them, really, and their baggie no-name jeans. Donna's house was full--bulk bin oats; piles of books; unsorted laundry, both dirty and clean--and they slid in, cutting through the air, their girl bodies like slivers.

Jessica was ten, and Jamie and Casey were thirteen and fourteen, the kind of girls who stood at angles, their elbows and knees and shoulders just points on thin, thin, bodies. They were beautiful, the two of them, but it was Casey, the older one, who had the eyes that were long and still, whose face was shaped as if it had been drawn with a fine-nibbed pen. Jamie was cute, but Casey made Jessica want to run away and hide under a quilt, ashamed by her huge curly hair, her ungainly height. If I could, she thought, I would peel that face right off her and press it down over mine."

There are things I really like about this novel. Jen Sookfong Lee is a creative writing teacher at Simon Fraser University and UBC, and her expertise appears in sensually-crafted passages.

I met Jen at one of her memoir-writing workshops, and later sat down with her for a critique of my own work. She is bright, spunky, honest, and real. Her experiences growing up in East Vancouver glow like a watermark in this book. We see Vancouver through the decades--the sea-scarred cliffs of Lions Bay in the 1950s, Chinatown and suburban Vancouver in the 1980s, the granite-countered condos of 2016--and we see the innards of the families who live and work there.

Jen's characters are real folks with real lives who suffer, swear, and sweat. Her men seem peripheral; agents of doom. Her women strong. I am drawn to Donna, the earth mother who tries so hard to nurture and sustain life; who pickles, preserves, grows her own food, and stocks her shelves like a health food store. Perhaps, I relate to 1980s Donna. And, I empathize with Ginny Cheng who loses her children despite her best efforts at being at good mom. Jessica Campbell, I applaud and admire. Her love affair with truth and liberation rings true. For in the end, it is the freedom to experience all that life offers, that we desire above all else.

Jan 03, 2017

Avoid this book. The plot is like any other novel written and considered for the Giller Prize. There's a family. There is trauma experienced by the family. A family member questions their self worth because of the trauma. Throw in Canadian landmarks/references. Family member does introspection. Book ends.

Really? Why oh why are all Giller Prize books, nay all Canadian books, written the same way? Don't believe me? The Sentimentalists - also a Giller Prize book, heck a winner - is written in the EXACT SAME WAY. There are others, but why waste your time listing them all?

If you want to read a book about families, read The Corrections, not this one.

You've been warned.

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Apr 28, 2017

SilverIlix thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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