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Summary

A reluctant medium discovers the ties that bind can unleash a dangerous power in this compelling Malaysian-set contemporary fantasy.

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke, and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she's determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god - and she's decided Jess is going to help her do it. 

Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she'll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.

©2021 Zen Cho (P)2021 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Black Water Sister

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Should be a TV show / Film 🌟🌟🌟🌟

absolutely loved this. I am trying to manifest this becoming a TV or film production . The Asian city neon eastheics blended with the ancient dwellings of gods and ghosts would be mind blowing. Black Water Sister is such a fantastic read. I can't say enough about it.

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Amazing Story

I loved the plot twists, incite into Chinese culture and the narration of the characters. I will definitely look for more books narrated by Catherine Ho, as well as novels written by Zen Cho.

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  • Rosemerry Song
  • 30-05-21

5 Stars across the board!

Couldn’t put this one down! If you’ve even thought in passing of checking this one out, DO IT! Jess moves to Malaysia with her parents, only to wind up possessed by her grandmother’s ghost. Ah Ma was the medium for the god Black Water Sister and is determined to have Jess become the god’s next medium so the god can take revenge on a developer who plans to redevelop her temple. Of course Jess, who spent most of her life in the US, has no idea what she’s agreeing to and quickly gets in over her head. To be fair, she does try to bargain with Ah Ma, but knowing the duplicitous nature of many spirits, we were anticipating betrayal. If only Jess had read the Dresden Files! 😂 Jess must figure out who to trust, while juggling complicated family dynamics, cultural expectations, and a secret lesbian romance. Zen Cho does an excellent job balancing insider and outsider cultural perspectives, making this story accessible to any reader. She keeps the twists coming and the ending is unforeseen, powerful, and satisfying.

Catherine Ho does a brilliant job narrating. So brilliant we’re disappointed she’s not narrating Zen Cho’s upcoming short story collection Spirits Abroad. Emily Woo Zeller, who seems to be Audible’s go-to for female Asian narration, was tapped instead. And Zeller is great. But Catherine Ho really gets the potent combination of emotion, magic, and gritty reality in Black Water Sister and brings it all out for the listener. While she does use accents for some characters, it’s never difficult to understand and all the voices are distinct.

The very first sentence was confusing because it ends in a Hokien word. We weren’t expecting that and at first thought we had misheard. Keep going; the word will be explained. This was the only instance where the experience suffered from being audio, simply because we couldn’t tell it was a non-English word and not terrible narration or our hearing by looking at the text.

A Word to the Wise (Content Warnings)

Major: Sexual assault, homophobia, violence, manipulation/gaslighting, religious abuse.

Moderate: Heteronormativity.

Minor: Brief mention of drugs.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Diana
  • 20-05-21

Brilliant writing - smart, hip, perceptive

The writing is sharp, the story moves quickly, the juxtaposition of smart phones and their apps with cultural diversity and heritage is fun. This is a brilliant work of writing and such a pleasure to experience as a reader / listener. I fear that xenophobic / conservative types will abhor the new and unfamiliar names and the lesbian main character. Their loss. The familiar is how families work, bosses and corporations and politics work, how religious beliefs work, and how we all struggle to find our place. The observations about people are perceptive. The writing deft. The narration is perfect. I was a little out of my depth with all the newness, but at the same time intrigued and fascinated. Highly recommend because lately a lot of "writers" have been trying their hand at urban fantasy and it's been frustrating to find the wheat in the chaff. This is called contemporary fantasy, but it's the same as urban fantasy to me. I don't know why this was put in "Horror" and hope it will be properly categorized in the future.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Stanley Sim
  • 29-08-21

Great story

I haven't bothered with writing reviews on Audible before but feel compelled to add my 5 stars to this. Admittedly I am biased being of Malaysian origin and of the same dialect group as described in the story though from the other side of the country, not Penang, but this story is so emblematic of Chinese-Malaysian families. Never mind the ghost aspect, which is funny and not really the main point, the interactions between the protagonists are straight out of the late 20th century SE Asian family playbook. Some film producer shuld snap up the rigts to this book - its funnier than Crazy Rich Asians, more realistic (no tycoon heroes, thank god) and has a more nuanced female central character. Just listen to this !

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  • Mary
  • 09-06-21

Another all-star from Zen Cho

I loved everything about this books- the characters and setting were lush, dynamic and fully realized. The story was both esoteric and approachable- this may be the most identifiable ghost and god story I've ever read. There are also layers to this tale which come together in a delicious tiered cake wrapped in phenomenal narration. Nothing was unnecessary but it never felt sparse, the stakes felt real and the anxiety, helplessness, power and thrills were all beautifully rendered.
I like to go into a familiar author without knowing anything about the story and recommend you not seek spoilers either. This is a 10/10 recommend.

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  • J. Valdez
  • 29-05-21

Great Paranormal Story with a SE Asian Twist

Jess' adventure isn't just one that is a foray into the world of the paranormal, it's also one of introspection. Memories of others are echoed in the daily struggles she encounters bring the gruesome history of her estranged family members to the forefront as we explore their stories.

There is a bit of a drag toward the beginning and the middle of the story where even as a Southeast Asian, I cannot relate or even really begin to like Jess as a character. She is flawed and weak until otherworldly intervention makes her otherwise.

I picked up this title as a recommendation from a spotlight of new AAPI works, and can only assume this is intended as a young adult work due to the language and content as well as references to contemporary things such as apps or companies.

Overall, the narrator carries this work as I would have put the book down before I ever got to any of the decent parts. The author takes the scenic route in being needlessly descriptive at times, and I feel that we could have gotten to the point much sooner. A decent read, though I'm glad it doesn't seem to be part of a series.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 26-05-21

Truly enjoyable!

I loved this book! Catherine Ho's performance really brought it to life and let me experience the music of the language, bringing me right into the powerful, layered story Zen Cho has created. It really got me, and I'll definitely be listening to it again.

2 people found this helpful

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  • just asking for some common sense
  • 27-04-22

A wild afterlife romp

A dead grandmother inhabits her young adult granddaughter. What could go wrong? Apparently a lot. This book was pretty great, with humor, violence, secrets, cultural observations and consequences of differences, family dynamics, criminal activity, spirits, gods, almost gods.

The main character is from Malaysia, but grew up in the USA. Now she is back in Malaysia with her parents and strange things are happening. You might have to suspend disbelief and just let this be. I loved the book and the narration. I listened quickly because I had to know the ending!

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  • Shawn M. Mccool
  • 06-08-21

I didn't want a young adult story..

..or to have obvious things spelled out for me.

but that's all I got. fifteen words minimum.

1 person found this helpful

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  • HC
  • 31-03-22

Cultures, Superstition and Identities Collide

Black Water Sister is a phenomenal piece that brings together generational and cultural differences, competing identities, and heavy emotional struggles within themes of superstition and supernatural events. Trigger warnings for language and sexual/physical/emotional assault.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-03-22

motivation skips and moralizing

Some motivation skips is character motivation. Some preachy moralizing at the end. Overall, not bad.