This mischievous Malaysian-set novel is an adventure featuring family, ghosts and local gods – from Hugo Award winning novelist Zen Cho.
Her grandmother may be dead, but she’s not done with life . . . yet.
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.
My thoughts: this was a really fun, and funny, read. I have a few Malaysian friends but I don’t know a huge amount about the country. This really brought it to life, Jess is a great protagonist. Seeing Penang through her eyes, as a newcomer, was a great way to learn about the city and its people. I loved her perspective on her family, all the crazy things they did, the endless rounds of entertaining guests and visiting friends, the way her mum and dad just got dragged along behind her auntie.
I also really liked learning about the religious beliefs of many Malaysians – worshipping hundreds of gods, some with only a little power, based in one small area, like the Black Water Sister of the title. A vengeful god, who really doesn’t like men, understandable when you learn more about her, as Jess does. I also loved Jess’ opinionated grandmother – Ah Ma. Despite being dead, she’s got plenty to say, about everything. I’m glad my dead relatives are safely tucked up in the afterlife (whatever that is) and not hanging about.
The book was colourful and clever and made me really hungry (Malaysian food is delicious btw). I want a sequel, see what Jess does next with her life.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.