Black Water Sister

Ace: Berkley. May 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780425283431. pap. $16.99. FANTASY
Jessamyn Teoh is moving back to Malaysia with her parents, after 19 years in the U.S. A few months out of college, Jess is unemployed and separated from her girlfriend—not that anyone else knows she’s a lesbian. When she starts hearing voices, Jess presumes it’s caused by the stress of moving in with her relatives and figuring out how to live in Penang. Yet the voice in her head reveals itself to be a ghost: the ghost of her grandmother Ah Ma, who herself was a medium. Jess finds herself pulled into family secrets as she tries to learn more about her grandmother and her family, and why Ah Ma’s deity, the Black Water Sister, wants revenge against a local businessman and gang boss. Jess’s willingness to help her grandmother find vengeance comes at a price, one that may cost Jess her own soul as part of the Black Water Sister’s larger plan. Cho (The True Queen) blends Malaysia’s Chinese diaspora culture with Jess’s U.S. upbringing; she lays bare the internal clash between Jess’s own identity and desires and her impulse to be a “good daughter.”
VERDICT An immersive tale of family secrets, deities, spirits, and religious belief. Cho offers a complex emotional roller-coaster of a read.
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