Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
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I was sent a copy of this novel by the publishers to review, however this has no bearing on my rating or review.
As Jessamyn packs for Malaysia, it’s not a good time to start hearing a bossy voice in her head. Broke, jobless and just graduated, she’s abandoning America to return ‘home’. But she last saw Malaysia as a toddler – and is completely unprepared for its ghosts, gods and her eccentric family’s shenanigans.
Jess soon learns her ‘voice’ belongs to Ah Ma, her late grandmother. She worshipped the Black Water Sister, a local deity. And when a business magnate dared to offend her goddess, Ah Ma swore revenge. Now she’s decided Jess will help, whether she wants to or not.
As Ah Ma blackmails Jess into compliance, Jess fights to retain control. But her irrepressible relative isn’t going to let a little thing like death stop her, when she can simply borrow Jess’s body to make mischief. As Jess is drawn ever deeper into a world of peril and family secrets, getting a job becomes the least of her worries.
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Black Water Sister is the beautiful and haunting story of female rage and revenge. The story is set in Malaysia and the detailed and evocative writing brought the setting to life. The use of dialect and language added an element of realism to the story and immersed the reader further into the rich culture of Malaysia. Zen Cho has explored Malaysian religion and culture within the story by incorporating various gods and spirits and their relevance to the characters of Black Water Sister.
The main character Jess has plenty of problems, she’s had to move to Malaysia after living in the US for nineteen years, she’s hiding her identity as a lesbian and her long distance relationship from her parents and she’s also unemployed, but her problems don’t end there as her dead grandmother, Ah Ma, is seeking vengeance and has decided to use Jess to get it. I loved the pairing of Ah Ma and Jess, they argued constantly but they each also formed a grudging respect for the other. Jess is the floundering twenty-something year old character that I desperately need in books, Black Water Sister is a coming of age story of sorts at a more realistic age and I love it.
A lesbian heroine fighting gods, ghosts and gangsters while being haunted by her grandmother in a beautiful modern Malaysian setting, what more could you possibly want in a story?
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