REVIEW: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto
What happens when you mix 1 (accidental) murder with 2 thousand wedding guests and then toss in a possible curse on 3 generations of an immigrant Chinese-Indonesian family? You get 4 meddling Asian aunties coming to the rescue!
When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—”Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.
But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
Dear Ms. Sutanto,
I had a blast with “The Obsession” so of course I had to grab the chance to read this arc. The description of “Crazy Rich Asians” crossed with “Weekend at Bernie’s” about says it all. I was clutching my stomach and laughing so much it hurt. But there’s so much more to the story than “Woman accidentally kills man. Woman’s family helps hide the body. Things go crazy AF.” Add an old romance flame and some self examination and discovery and there’s “Dial A for Aunties.”
This is one funny book. I mean if I’m laughing as the heroine is attempting to deal with a dead body (no, he didn’t really deserve to die but it truly was an accident and he was an asshole who wouldn’t listen to the word ‘No!”), then cackling as the Aunties and Ma all rally round even as they’re debating the actual superstition about funerals and Chinese weddings and I inhale a 250 page book in one day – something is entertaining me and doing it well.
For those who worry about how the aunties speak, read the author’s note at the beginning of the book which discusses how her own beloved relatives actually sound as they converse in a language in which they aren’t fluent – which is actually the third language they speak. The plot dives deep into the intricacies of Chinese/Indonesian weddings and culture treating them all with love, understanding, and a sharp eye for how startling some things are (the shit the bridegrooms endure at the hands of the wickedly inventive bridesmaids) or traditional yet also wow (the tea ceremony where eye watering amounts of gifts and money can be presented to the happy couple).
I loved the relationships between Meddy and her (close knit and overbearing) mother and aunties. Equal parts funny, frustrating, nitpicking, and showing love and respect – their actions reveal family tensions and how much they really love each other. Plus they’re ready to (literally) hide the body which is what best friends and relatives do, right?
Ma waves me off and says, “Come, help me cut mango for aunties. If we don’t offer any food very ngga enak.”
“Seriously, Ma? You care about saving face right now? I think we’re kinda beyond that, aren’t we?”
She gives me a look as she bends down to open up the fruit drawer in the fridge. “Meddy, how can you say that? Your aunties coming over, so late at night, coming to help us get rid of body, and we don’t even offer them any food? How can? Oh, we have dragon fruit, good, good. Big Aunt’s favorite. Wah, got pear too. Very good. Help me peel, don’t be so rude to your aunties, you will bring shame.”
“Oh, right, it’s the lack of fruit that’ll bring shame, not the dead body in the car.”
And the romance – awwww – is shown in flashbacks to fill us in on Nathan and Meddy’s past and how they knew they were Meant To Be yet for reasons explained (some good, some a bit silly) they broke up before meeting again which added yet one more element to the overwhelming crazy shit stuff going on at the wedding resort.
Make no mistake, the book is over the top and slightly absurd at times but it’s obviously meant to be as the plot rockets around like a roller coaster coming close to being out of control. Near misses, hilarious hijinks, and close calls lead to two thousand gussied up guests being front and center to watch the trainwreck of a wedding ceremony where everything comes unglued. Or does it?
I have to admit that with 30 pages to go, I had no idea how things would be pulled off and was still debating whether or not they actually should be as … body of dead guy who deserved some kind of justice even if it looked like it would be delivered by a big bellied sheriff who didn’t seem to care who he charged so long as he had someone in cuffs.
The story is equal parts madcap mixed with family relationships. Heroine Meddy has some moments of deep introspection that she needs to do as she decides where she’s willing to draw the line in the sand of her morals. I think she comes out on the side of right plus she helps two other people find their HEA. The aunties? They’re delightful and maddening at the same time along with being forces of nature. Thinking back, there are so many ways this would never work in real life but I had so much fun with it that I cheerfully waved those aside B+