Returning to Malaysia as an adult, Jess just wants to get a job and help out her parents. But shortly after they move in with her auntie and uncle, Jess starts hearing voices. Well one voice in particular, that of Ah Ma, her dearly departed grandmother. Ah Ma is out for revenge, and she’s not beyond using her granddaughter’s body to get it.

I loved Black Water Sister. It’s partly a story about not knowing what to do with yourself after graduating, and one of family obligations and what to do when haunted by an angry relative. It’s also a mystery of sorts, as Jess tries to piece together what is really going on. Trigger warnings for attempted rape and abduction.

So much for being lucky, thought Jess wildly. It figured that she’d avoided getting nagged to go to law school, only to get nagged to become a vessel for the dead.

All Jess knew about Ah Ma was that her parents weren’t on speaking terms with her, so she doesn’t know a huge amount about the person who has taken up residence in her head. Even more worrying, it seems Ah Ma is capable on controlling her body when she’s asleep and she’s gained the ability to speak several languages fluently. At least her Malaysian family will be impressed.

However Jess just wants to find a job and the haunting really isn’t helping things. She agrees to help Ah Ma, leading to a world of spirits, mediums, gang violence and dodgy business dealings. The story unfolds at just the right pace with a fantastic cast of characters.

Jess thought of herself an hour ago, crouching under the sun, sweeping the debris of the goddess’s altar into a dustpan. It was a little too late to take “don’t cause offense” as her rule in religious matters.

When leaving America, Jess also left her girlfriend behind. She kind of had plans to be with her after graduation, but she wanted to be a good daughter, after everything her father had sacrificed for her, she went with them to help them get settled in Penang. But her parents don’t know she’s a lesbian, and she’s reluctant to tell Sharanya about all the supernatural stuff. Who would believe her? She can feel the distance between them growing.

The Black Water Sister of the title is a spirit, but I don’t really want to tell you too much about her, you should just read the book to find out for yourself.

20 Books of Summer #13

Goodreads | Amazon* | Waterstones | Hive | Wordery | Blackwell’s* | Bookshop.org*

*indicates an affiliate link