cover image The Conjoined

The Conjoined

Jen Sookfong Lee. ECW (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-77041-284-2

Jessica Campbell’s memories of her late, perfect mother, Donna, are shattered by the discovery of the bodies of two teenage girls, missing for 28 years, at the bottom of Donna’s chest freezers. Jessica’s life spirals as she learns of her mother’s past and the troubled histories of Jamie and Casey Cheng—the two dead girls—and their parents, who fought to survive in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Lee (The Better Mother) hops back and forth through time: from 2016 to the mid-1980s, tracing how the girls came to live with Donna in foster care, and going as far back as the ’40s and ’50s, exploring Donna’s youth. The narrative is one of self-discovery as Jessica, appalled, seeks not so much the why of her mother’s cruel actions as the who—who she was, really, and how much of her is reflected in Jessica’s life and decisions. The mystery of how the girls died is not the book’s main focus, but this captivating novel still moves with the pace of a thriller as it deftly fills in the gaps in the lives of several people, each fractured by horrors of their very own, joined as one in betrayal, trauma, and uncertainty. Agent: Carolyn Swayze, Carolyn Swayze Literary. (Sept.)