A review by mitone_winona
Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho

adventurous challenging dark emotional funny mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Before going into how fantastic the author, Zen Cho, did an amazing job doing magical realism during modern times, I praise the author for perfectly capturing family dynamics and how family REALLY is. The story is through the eyes of Jess as she deals with leaving America to go back home to Malaysia as well as the heaviness of wanting to help her parents as well as keeping her girlfriend secret from her family. Not only is Jess dealing with problems stewing in herself, she is also being possessed by the ghost of her grandmother, Ah Ma. Ah Ma has unfinished business of her own and has chosen Jess to carry out her plans so she can finally pass on and be at rest.

Throughout the story, Ah Ma and Jess bicker continuously and Ah Ma doesn't always give a straight answer to Jess instead giving the infamous "Because I told you so" to Jess in response to questions about why in the world does Jess of all people have to deal with gods and gangs and family matters for her grandmother.

While the mentioning of being possessed by a ghost grandmother, dealing with gods and gangs and the consequences of gentrification will throw a viewer in a loop, I promise the author tells the story beautifully and all of it makes sense and this book never has a slow moment.

Jess is a character trying not to be suffocated under the weight of the world, she is a fighter to the bone and that will make you cheer on for her. She is straight forward, smart, and heart breakingly real that you'll feel as if you want to back up Jess' throughout her journey in investigating what is going on, how to make her grandmother leave immediately, and who is Black Water Sister.

For those that like stories dealing with magical realism as well as action and family matters, I encourage you to read this book.

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