A Reader’s Guide to THE CONJOINED by Jen Sookfong Lee

The October chill isn’t the only thing sending shivers down our spines this Halloween season. In The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee, follow the chilling story of social worker Jessica, who struggles to uncover her dead mother’s deeply buried secrets after discovering the bodies of two girls curled at the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. 

“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.”  — Publishers Weekly

“Sookfong Lee is a gifted writer, telling a complicated story with depth and insight . . . The Conjoined is a quick, compelling read. But its characters and their stories will linger.” — Vancouver Sun

“An insightful look at a daughter’s efforts to come to terms with the past.” — Toronto Star

“Flawlessly written and a page-turner for sure, The Conjoined is a rare read.” — Owen Sound Sun Times

“Every once in a while, a book comes along that is both universal in its readability and specific in its appeal to Vancouverites . . . This is a page-turner — guaranteed to be read hungrily in one or two sittings — but an intensely literary one.” — Georgia Straight

Unearth your own revelations and sink further into The Conjoined’s eerie story with our reader's guide, the perfect post-reading companion! Some of the questions do contain spoilers, so consider yourself warned! 

  1. The novel starts with a passage in italics, told by someone in the first person. Who is narrating these italicized parts, and how do they contribute to the story?

  2. The novel deals mainly with the lives of Casey and Jamie; Jessica; Jessica’s mother, Donna; and Ginny, Bill, and Wayne. But whose story is this? Why do you think so?

  3. The Conjoined covers several themes, like class, race, guilt, and redemption. What theme was strongest for you and why?

  4. Why did Jessica end up disliking Trevor so much and eventually leave? How does the author’s portrayal of Trevor speak to the theme of social work?

  5. Near the beginning, we discover that Jessica fears being like her mother. But she’s actually quite like her. How is this true?

  6. How did you feel about this novel when by the end of the book you still didn’t know how the girls ended up in the freezers and if Donna had killed them? What do you think is the author’s intention in not answering these questions? What does this make the novel truly about?

  7. What realization(s) does Jessica come to by the end of the novel? How does she reconcile her previous view of her mother as perfect and kind and generous with the idea that she might have murdered the girls and with Donna’s dark past?

  8. The author makes several social and societal statements with this novel. What are they?

  9. What is your reason for why the girls might have been murdered? How might things have been better handled by everyone involved when the girls were alive?

  10. ECW Press says, “The Conjoined . . . challenges our perceptions of victim and villain, saviour and sinner.” What evidence do you find of this in the novel?  


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