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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.
Moving between present and past, The Conjoined unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism, how race and class can assign unwanted roles to society’s most vulnerable individuals, and the well-intentioned social service workers who mean to help. Set in the middle-class suburb of North Vancouver, as well as Chinatown and the infamous Downtown Eastside, this compulsively readable novel traces the often hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.
Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised on Vancouver’s East Side, where she now lives with her son. Her books include The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, The End of East, and Shelter, a novel for young adults. Her poetry, fiction, and articles have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Elle Canada, Hazlitt, Room, and Event.
A popular radio personality, Jen was the voice behind CBC Radio One’s weekly writing column, Westcoast Words, for three years. She appears regularly as a contributor on The Next Chapter and is a frequent co-host of the Studio One Book Club. Jen teaches writing in the continuing studies departments at both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.
Table of Contents
Prologue 1 Two Thousand And Sixteen 2 One 3 Two 12 Three 18 Four 37
Nineteen Eighty-four To Nineteen Eighty-eight 52 Five 53 Six 59 Seven 68 Eight 73 Nine 78
Two Thousand and Sixteen 84 Ten 85 Eleven 106 Twelve 136
Nineteen Forty-seven to Nineteen Fifty-nine 150 Thirteen 151
Two Thousand and Sixteen 178 Fourteen 179 Fifteen 202 Sixteen 218