Pub Date 13 Sep 2016
Longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
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.