Book Review: Black Water Sister

This book was absolutely an unexpected favourite for me! I’m not usually a fan of ghosts in stories but Zen Cho executed this brilliantly. Black Water Sister is an emotional slap, but I could not stop laughing! The family dynamics, the humour, the personality of the gods and spirits – I loved it all. All while relating to that lost feeling post-education where you don’t know what you want to do with your life. This is what happens when you take a character quietly trying to figure life out and chuck them into a paranormal adventure.

Star rating: 5 stars

After she’s done with college, Jessamyn and her family move back to Malaysia to live with her Dad’s family. They’ve had a rough time as of late with her Dad recovering from cancer and her Mom emotionally exhausted. But things are looking up thanks to their move, that is until Jess starts hearing voices. Turns out, she can hear the voice of the ghost of her Ah Ma who had died the previous year. And Ah Ma wants revenge on those who wronged her God. In addition to carrying out Ah Ma’s demands, Jess is trying to keep her long distance relationship with her girlfriend going whilst not being out to her family yet.

I loved Jess as a protagonist. She begins the story lost, confused and not existing much outside of looking out for her parents. Throughout the book she grows so much into this badass character who fights and schemes and it was just a joy to read. I found her interactions with her grandmother absolutely hilarious – I was in stitches at how blunt Ah Ma could be, and her backstory was so wild I was just like woaaaah this is so awesome and heart-breaking all at the same time. The other gods and spirits were also full of character which I found super engaging in terms of the world-building.

Cross-generational stories are becoming some of my favourite books, there’s something about having characters that span age groups that I really enjoy. The family dynamics are excellent, with tasteful drama and a lot of joy. It really is a delight when you find a book that manages the balance between humour and emotional punches, and Black Water Sister does just that.

Overall, consider me very impressed. I really didn’t want the story to be over because I liked being in it so much. So much happened, there were so many ends to tie up and so much family backstory. If you like these sorts of books then you will love Black Water Sister. I highly recommend it even if you’re a bit unsure on whether ghost stories are for you.