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The Conjoined

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  999 ratings  ·  220 reviews
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 teenage ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by ECW000
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Average rating 3.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  999 ratings  ·  220 reviews

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Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I was happily surprised at how much I liked reading The Conjoined. It's certainly an odd story, and could have easily fallen off the rails but Sookfong Lee keeps it together really well. I won’t be giving away any real spoilers if I mention that the book starts with main character Jessica finding the bodies of two girls in her parents’ freezer following her mother’s recent death. What’s odd about the story is that this isn’t a mystery or a thriller. It’s really about Jessica’s journey to underst ...more

Jessica is trying to help her father get over the death of her mother, who had a reputation as a perfect foster mother of many troubled children, from traumatised little ones to rebellious, destructive teens. A woman who filled photo albums and scrapbooks for the kids to show how happy their time with her was. She seldom ‘failed’.

Donna had been an earth mother, the one who grew all her own veggies, made soup for sick neighbours. A bit of a hippy with a “verging-on-manly chuckle that jiggled
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it
The Conjoined, a book being billed as a mystery/thriller, felt incomplete to me. Up until the very end the book was well-written, fast-paced and interesting. But then, let's just say at the end you are left hanging and the book and story feel totally unfinished. The mystery part is thrown out the window, so what you have is basically a character study, which would be fine, but the character development didn't go quite deep enough for it to only be that.

A promising start, but not enough for me t
Trigger warnings: death of a parent, terminal cancer, miscarriage, domestic violence, and a romantic relationship between a teenage girl and a 40-something man. *shudder*

3.5 stars.

This book has been billed as a thriller, but really it's somewhere in between a thriller and a family saga.

Essentially, Jessica's mother dies of cancer, and when she and her father start to clean out the house, they find the bodies of two teenage girls in freezers in the basement. Girls that they fostered 28 years ag
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is not a thriller but I guess it's been marketed that way to get more readers. It's a family drama, and a darned good one. There are two dead girls in the freezer, but this novel isn't a whodunit but more of a whydoneit. Jen Sookfong Lee builds a cast of very human characters, each having flaws and pretty much everyone longing for an elusive happiness and these individual pursuits combo into a deadly result. If you're looking for a breathtaking pageturner a la Gillian Flynn, this isn't it. ...more
this is a fucking brutal book. anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

this novel starts as a murder mystery (with a pretty good idea of who the murderer is but who knows) then develops into a story about

* the dead-end lives of poor immigrants with no education and bottom-of-the-barrel jobs
* institutional racism and the dilemma of whether or not to call the police when you are not white
* the unforgiving weight of unsupported motherhood, at all social levels
* asian masculinity (this t
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.
I picked this book up for its cover. I found the image creepy, and it reminded me of Red Riding Hood and a Donald Sutherland movie ("Don't Look Now"). Neither of those references has anything to do with this book, just thought I'd be honest about my initial reason for noticing the book.

Anyway, I'm not spoiling anything when I say the story begins in 2016 with the discovery of two dead girls, Canadian Chinese sisters, in freezers in the basement of Jessica Campbell's parents' house. Jes
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who don't require a neat, tidy conclusion
How well do we know our parents? Social worker Jessica Campbell thought, like the rest of us, that she knew her mother pretty well. Then, as she and her father clean out the family home after her mother’s death, they find a body in the bottom of a chest freezer. They call the police, who find a second body in another freezer. Leaving Jessica to wonder what is going on?

This is very readable and things are revealed by various players in the story it progresses. But it is more about the interaction
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, ebooks, mystery
This book presents itself as a thriller/mystery, but is really more of a family drama. I really enjoyed the author's writing in this book, but I felt as if it ended right where the climax of the story should have been. We're building up to the reveal of who killed the girls and then the book just kind of fizzles out with no explanation. That was my whole reason for reading the book- wanting an explanation of what is essentially a whodunit. The author sets up a really interesting murder scenario ...more
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
I hate it when you trust an author all the way through a book, and they leave you hanging at the end. Yes, some books benefit from an ambigious ending, but not a mystery! The main character was abhorent, and while I almost always love an unlikeable character, this one was just horrible for no reason. The historical parts of this story were great, but the modern day parts were awkward and sometimes cringe-inducing. That could possibly have been forgiven if the mystery had been solved at the end, ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2017-bingo
Yeah, no.

Nothing about this book worked for me. Not the unbelievable storyline, the characters I couldn't get close to at all, nor the writing itself. Then, when near the end I had to endure a pedophile sex-scene, I had enough.

I saw the author speak, and she was interesting, but this book was just bad. Sorry.
Coleen (The Book Ramblings)
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
While sorting through her mother's belongings, Jessica Campbell and her father find a horrifying discovery -- beneath resealable plastic bags with frostbitten meat, in the bottom of her mother's chest freezers are the bodies of two dead girls. The two girls are a pair of foster children, Casey and Jamie Cheng, that lived with the family in 1988 -- two of the countless foster children her mother had taken in over the years. Six weeks after the sisters went missing, give their difficult history, e ...more
This was an un-putdownable book that was part family drama and part mystery (although you don't get the tidy resolution you do in traditional mystery so fans looking for that will be disappointed). The characters were expertly drawn, all authentic and sympathetic, all far from perfect. Jen Sookfong Lee's writing is incisive, thoughtful, and generous. And set in Vancouver! The audiobook voice actor was pitch perfect. Great for fans of Megan Abbott.
mad mags
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
"I come from a family of psychopaths."

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence, including rape and child abuse. This review contains clearly marked spoilers, but I tried to be as vague as possible.)

She was on the verge of losing her girls, not to a bearded, smelly man in a rusty pick-up truck, but to a phalanx of people who would look at her and see her mistakes, the gaps of time that she had left her daughters alone, the frank
Kelsi H
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Please read all of my reviews at!

Jessica has always admired her mother, Donna – she even became a social worker to follow in her footsteps, helping underprivileged and damaged children who are lost in the system. Now, Donna has just passed away, and Jessica and her father are struggling to clean out the cluttered house. Underneath the frostbitten packages of meat in the basement freezer, they make their most gruesome discovery – the bodies of two teenage girls,
Jun 20, 2016 rated it liked it
After the death of her mother Jessica Campbell discovers the bodies of 2 missing foster children in a freezer in the basement. Her mother who has taken in countless foster children could not have killed these 2. So starts Jessica's journey to find out who here mother really was and maybe find herself along the way. I would like to thank the Publisher and Net Galley for the chance to read this ARC.
Barbara McEwen
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: canadian
2.5 stars - I like the idea behind the book but it just didn't work for me. A lot of the characters are over the top so it was hard to take seriously and it hypes up mystery but doesn't really deliver.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this after reading the synopsis on the back cover that says: "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 si ...more
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Conjoined paints a telling portrait of the lies we tell ourselves, the truths that need telling and the welcoming weightlessness of letting go.  

This read goes way beyond the mystery of the frozen girls found at the bottom of a freezer. Firstly, I grabbed hold of Jessica and was absorbed by her predicament.

Her mother had recently died
She finds bodies in the basement freezer
She is questioning her relationship with her boyfriend
She feels less passion for her job

The reason I connected to this
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Good
Chinese characters are featured throughout the story, and instead of being portrayed following the usual model minority stereotypes, the characters are shown to be struggling and leading difficult lives. This is a facet of the Chinese Canadian (or Chinese American) experience that I haven’t seen a lot and I appreciated it. The struggles that immigrants and the children of immigrants face were touched upon, if only briefly.

The Bad
The book just stops. The narrative is concerned with Jessic
Jun 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: netgalley, 2016, dnf
DNF at 51%.

I'm sorry but Jessica is one of the worst characters I have ever read. She's absolutely vile and I cannot see any reason for it other than to make the story more interesting. The dialogue in this is sometimes ridiculous and completely unbelievable. I just can't anymore. I may really want to know what happened but I just can't put up with Jessica and her entitled bullshit.
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
more of a 3.5 but I round up. full review coming soon!
Meredith Glenn
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book was SUCHHH a disappointment. There was barely a mystery/thriller element and the conclusion wasn't satisfying at all. I just wanna know what happened! *sad face*
Aug 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The premise of dead bodies in a freezer grabbed me. It sounds dark and tense. This book doesn't really follow that path though, it's more about people; their lives, the difficulties in doing good, and expectations. In truth the story is a bit mixed, with some impressive highlights and some jumbled problems.

The story delves into a few time periods as it pieces together the backstory. Oddly I much prefered these backstories. The main story is really Jessica digging into the past, unfortunately her
Sep 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee is one of the worst books I have read this year. Jessica Campbell’s mother, Donna has passed away. Jessica and her father, Gerry are clearing out her things (especially all the health food they cannot stand). Gerry goes downstairs to clear out the freezers (you just know what he is going to find) and finds a body. Detective Chris Gallo comes in to lead the investigation and the forensic team soon finds a second body. Jessica suspects that they are two foster chi ...more
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was a quirky little dark meditation on the things we don’t know about the ones we love, that was set in my city and my career. About a white social worker, who, upon her mother’s death in 2016, finds the bodies of two Chinese Canadian foster girls who went missing from their family home in the 1980’s, in the family freezer amongst the organic stews and grass fed bison, leading her into a crisis of career, relationships, and memory. This book touched on some of the darkest things you ca ...more
Mette Bach
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored this book. Couldn't put it down. Brought it everywhere and snuck pages in while waiting in line at Costco. It's beautifully complex with flawed characters who are totally believable. Hilarious observations about Vancouver and human nature and craft beer. It's everything.

I enjoyed the suspenseful plot, but also how it totally moves beyond the need for a clear resolution. This is not a whodunnit, but rather a contemplative glimpse into a seemingly idealistic world that's actua
This was really good. Really almost five stars. I love the main character's voice, I love the way the book plays with and subverts some murder mystery cliches. The writing is sharp and observant and insightful and lovely. I like the structure and the glimpses into the other characters lives.

Very happy I read this, and I'd look for more books by this author.
Kaeli Wood
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deb Lancaster
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Unexpectedly good. Writing with purpose and depth and carefully chosen words. Telling a story as it should be told, multi faceted and opaque. No one realy knows anyone anyway. Glad I stumbled across it.
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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.

Shelter, Jen’s first fiction for young adults, wa

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