Happy Pride! Started off the month with this book, which features a trope that we well know–the disaffected millennial (…zillenial? ugh I’m getting OLD) who doesn’t know what they want to do. Except this time…it’s a gay Malaysian woman who’s recently graduated from Hahvard and moving back to Malaysia with her parents??
Already I am 100% more on board.
I was going to say that Cho writes with a surety that’s impressive for a debut novel, but then I checked myself (and her profile) and gosh am I embarrassed (and I should probably be better about reading author bios). Cho’s a g-d Hugo Award winner. ANYHOO.
So, yes, it’s quite easy to get into the head of our main character Jess, who struggles and does the best she can dropped into the midst of Malaysia and a maelstrom of mediums and mysterious going-ons. The plot is a little convoluted–it’s hard to keep track exactly of who wants what and why. I also found myself frequently at odds with Jess, who makes some ill-advised moves that leave her (very predictably) in troubled situations.
Most of the confusion comes from the dual nature of the mediums, whose powers (to channel various gods, or in Jess’ case her Ah Ma/maternal grandmother) seem sometimes hard to access and sometimes just a simple on/off switch. The motivations of the gods seem a bit opaque as well, but I suppose that just comes with the territory. The clearest everything felt was right at the outset–this book has an amazing beginning, where Jess starts hearing a voice whilst trying to pack up her entire American life.
There are plot threads that are well resolved (that of the Black Water Sister, imo) and those that are less so (all of the local gangster/god issues). None of it makes me root for Jess any less, and it’s nice to have an unapologetically lackadaisical female protagonist who nevertheless makes the best out of the situation she’s in, perhaps unwittingly perpetuating the story of her female ancestors.