This is a book that does not fit neatly into those categories with which booksellers file books. It would languish among the thrillers, because while being thrilling in the sense that a gruesome discovery has happened in the basement freezers, it is not your typical edge-of-your-seat thriller. It doesn’t quite slip into crime and mystery easily as while a crime has been committed, there is no real detecting going on that one has learnt to expect from crime/mystery releases. To me, the cover has a bit of Red Riding Hood/Handmaid’s Tale feel (red hooded cloak after all). But it neither is fairytale-inspired nor dystopian speculative fiction.
So where does The Conjoined go? I imagine this may confound booksellers. Literary fiction? Maybe? (To be honest the definition of ‘literary fiction’ has always puzzled me).
If it were up to me, I would file it under “Awesome Reads” (why yes, I do like the word ‘Awesome’). I like books that defy definition. Books that surprise me and take me places and issues unknown but not entirely unfamiliar. In this case, foster families in Vancouver, immigrant families in Canada, motherhood, family secrets.
And in also the death of a mother, the clearing of her things resulting in a gruesome discovery in their basement freezer, a police investigation and a daughter’s realisation as memories unravel.
(And then you can’t help but think of your own family and wonder what secrets they are hiding.)
Jen Sookfong Lee has her own way with words. The best way I can think of describing it is that it is modern, gritty, honest, real. She doesn’t shun desperate thoughts or dirty notions. She doesn’t shy away from those deep dark things we keep to ourselves, at the back of our minds, or write in secret journals we keep under our beds.
I received this book from its publisher ECW Press via Netgalley.
I read this for Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf challenge