Book Review | The Conjoined, by Jen Sookfong Lee

book reviews


The Conjoined Jen Sookfong LeeThe Conjoined: A Novel |  Jen Sookfong Lee | ECW Press | Forthcoming 9/13/2016 | Goodreads 

While cleaning out her late mother’s deep freezer days after her death, Jessica and her father find a human body frozen at the bottom. They call the Vancouver police, who find a second body upon further inspection.

Her father might not remember who the girls were, but Jessica immediately identifies them as Casey and Jamie, two girls her mother hosted during her years as a prolific foster parent. Authorities presumed the girls had run away years ago, but the bodies in the basement prove otherwise. Refusing to wait until the bodies thawed to learn what happened, Jessica digs into the past of both the girls and her mother to form her own hypothesis. Predictably, her investigation turns into an opportunity for self examination, as she scrutinizes her own motivations for becoming a social worker.

I enjoyed this book for some pretty strange reasons. From an anthropological standpoint, I found it riveting to watch the evolution of blonde-haired Jessica and her boyfriend, a do-good hipster. Through his character, I was able to explore the hoards of “save the world” types who seem ever-present in this newfangled Washington D.C.. Everyone knows the type– vegetarian chili connoisseurs and Tom Waits fans, as author Jen Sookfong Lee writes. We watch them evaluate the privilege inherent in the lifestyles, as well as the systems they’ve bought into in order to help those less fortunate. More importantly, we watch them come to different conclusions.

The Conjoined also provides a different Asian character than the stereotypical mathlete with a “tiger mom.” Casey and Jamie are complex young women, struggling financially and searching for a place in the world that doesn’t hurt so much. They’re angry, resentful, and violent, like many other kids who have been let down by the adults in their lives. Sometimes, you’ll be angry at them for their irrational behavior and bad decisions. Mostly, you’ll be angry for them.

Read The Conjoined this coming fall if you’re interested in emotionally-wrought mysteries. If you watch desaturated crime dramas like Wallander and Broadchurch, this will be right up your alley, because that’s almost how I mentally dramatized this book while reading. The focus is less on the crime itself, and more about the people who played a major part. In this book, no one person is a murder, because it took a community to put Casey and Jamie into that freezer. A series of failures, inadequacies, and misjudgments that Jessica– and you by proxy– will unearth.

The Conjoined will be out this fall, so get ready for some great reading. I don’t read nearly enough thrillers, and I’m excited to read more! Let me know if you have any more to recommend to me! 

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14 Comments

  1. I want to read this one. I don’t read a lot of crime thrillers, either, but this sounds like one I’d like – one that focuses more on the characters than the crime!

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    1. I feel the same way! I’m not too big on books without character development, so I was happy to see that this was a deep exploration of EVERY character involved. Effortlessly so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] The Conjoined, by Jen Sookfong Lee: This book reminded me how few mysteries and thrillers I read. I absolutely loved it, and recommend it to people who like thoughtful crime novels. […]

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  3. This sounds like such a good read, definitely adding it to my reading list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely do it! It’s also not too long of a book, so it’s something you can read in one weekend!

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  4. Ooh! That sounds like quite the thriller! I love psychological books, and being in DC, TOTALLY get the type that Jessica’s boyfriend sounds like. Would love to read how they figure things out!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds absolutely fascinating! I don’t read many thrillers either, but I can’t wait to pick this one up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Adding this to my reading pile. I love a good mystery and this sounds like it might be right up my alley. Also love supporting diverse authors.

    By the way is this a quick read or more than 300 pgs?

    Great review!

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    1. I read the e-book, but I think it’s actually 300 pages exactly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, thank you so much.

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  7. Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a fantastic thriller in my opinion, if you haven’t read it yet, I think you’d enjoy it!

    Great review, looking forward to checking this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I want to spend my fall reading some fun thrillers. Thanks for reading– you’ll like this one!

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    2. Oo, seconded! And Marisha Pessl’s first novel is even better, I think, if you haven’t read it yet — Special Topics in Calamity Physics. So, so good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I have that book! Never got around to finishing it, but I will!

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