Black Water Sister Review

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho is a contemporary urban fantasy novel set in Malaysia. With Jess being able to hear her dead grandmother voice in her head, her life has all of a sudden turned for the worst and that’s not to say that her life was perfect or even anywhere near that to begin with prior to all the ghost and spirit drama. I have mixed feelings about Black Water Sister. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a novel that dealt with an Asian theme but the culture and sentiments written here by the author hits way too close to home for me. However, while I was able to connect on that level with the main protagonist, the story didn’t really captivate me all too much in regards to the spirits and bodily possessions. This is a bit weird since I finished the book quite fast!

“I know what is Google. I only died last year!”

Ah Ma

Being born as an Asian American to parents who had migrated to the United States but still “kept” their original “ways and methods” of doing things and views of the world, I absolutely understood Jess as a character. The pressure of having to live up to your families expectation, not disgracing them by not showing “face”, being filial until the end of days can be downright suffocating. It’s very easy for someone to simply tell you to shake out of it but that’s easier said than done. You are simply born into it and nothing can seem to change that. The guilt and emotions that Jess goes through I completely understand as many Asians go through similar ordeals. It’s no wonder that Jess is a mess of a character with all that she goes through. Add the fact that she hear voices, can see spirits and come under bodily possession, it’s hard not to lose control. Oh and she’s a closet lesbian. No sweat, right?

Maybe she could puke in their faces. That might put them off.


Although Black Water Sister is a novel that is supposed to have a haunting/spooky vibe to it, I actually wanted a bit more humor. The setup was definitely there, especially coming from Ah Ma. Jess herself, while not really the comedian type, has shown some signs of humor mainly through her thinking and thoughts to herself. Other than that, many of the other supporting cast members were fairly below average and totally non-memorable. Although I may have sounded negative in my review here, I actually wouldn’t mind reading a sequel sometime in the future. I know, weird stuff.

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