Review: The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee

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July 4, 2016 by Zoë

After her mother’s death, Jessica and her father are cleaning out the house when they discover two bodies in the bottom of a freezer. It is then that Jessica remembers the two foster children they had who went missing. The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee follows Jessica as she tries to uncover the truth of what led to the girls’ deaths.

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 Jessica and her relationships with the people around her, including her parents, her boyfriend, and the policeman investigating the case of the dead foster children. However, besides the relationship between Jessica and her boyfriend, little changes in the other relationships and I felt no strong sense of closure when the novel ended. It just finished. Jessica uncovered some details about her family’s past and the foster children’s past, but did not seem to change in any significant way, nor did the details add up to anything terribly significant except for the simple fact that people are complicated.

The Verdict
I did read this book very quickly, so something certainly propelled me along, but in the end I can’t strongly recommend it because I wasn’t satisfied. It’s perhaps worth reading if you like quiet books about family secrets and angst, but that’s about it.

“Even if it was just to the edge of the city, where the trees and ocean choked out everything else and there were spots–muffled and brown–they would never be found.”

I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley.

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