Dial A for Aunties – book review

Dial A for Aunties
by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Release Date:  April 27, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Number of Pages: 295
Source:  Warren Public Library
Chick Lit/Romance M/F
Ages 14 and up
CW: attempted sexual assault
Read 5/29/21 to 5/30/21

A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties 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?

This book is a lot of fun, but also kept my belly in an uproar. The tension! It’s like Weekend at Bernie’s but with higher stakes. To be very clear, Meddy and her aunties are all very good people. No matter what happens and what they did throughout this story, I was always rooting for them. There are some definite boneheaded decisions, but when it comes to Meddy herself I could always see the reason she made the choices she did. Didn’t stop me from yelling at her though!

Although Meddy is the main character here, the aunties are all very significant characters and feature prominently throughout the story. That’s 5 characters to keep track of…names, personalities, and temperaments to keep track of, along with how each interacts with the others. Something that really stood out to me was the fact that this story did not get confusing. I never felt lost or had to pause to figure out why a character would react a certain way. One of the things that helped was the way Meddy referred to them as Big Aunt, Second Aunt, etc. I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing, but it seemed to be. And, as the reader, it really helped me to keep things straight.

The further I got into this book, the crazier the hijinks got, the more I couldn’t see how Meddy and her family were going to get out of the mess they were in. Impossible! Somehow, of course, it all comes together at the end. Actually, that’s the only issue I have with this book. The repercussions and how each secret is revealed and plays out is a bit hazy. Some of it makes sense, but other things seemed to be slipshod together to make the story work. By the time those parts come, I was so invested in Meddy getting an HEA and her aunts and mom coming out clean that I really didn’t care too much though.

The deeper story in this book is what really touched me. Sure, it’s a fun and fantastical adventure that kept me amused. But it’s also about Meddy finding her own voice in her family. She needs to figure out how to be herself even when her personality seems to get buried by the avalanche of magnetism that is her aunties and mom. Always wanting to be the reliable child and the good child has left her making others happy to her own detriment. The aunties are always there for Meddy no matter what, which she loves and hates at the same time. Throughout this book she learns that their love and acceptance does not have to come at the price of her happiness.

There were many exchanges I highlighted throughout this book, but one in particular I want to share. To me, it really gets to the tone of this story. The humor in balance with the suspense.

“I can’t believe my aunts’ rivalry with each other is jeopardizing us getting away with murder.”

I loved learning about some of the culture of Chinese-Indonesian people. The wedding customs were fascinating to me and the author did an amazing job with her imagery without getting long-winded. This alone has me wanting to read more from her.

4 stars

Note: I featured this book in a Friday Favorites/First Lines Friday post because it truly hooked me from the beginning. You can check that out here.

About Cheri

I'm the mom of two boys and wife to my high school sweetheart. Our oldest, Josh, is living at home while working and paying off student loans. Our youngest, Griffin recently left his active duty Army job and is now National Guard here at home. He moved back to Michigan with his wife Kirsten and our beautiful granddaughter Hazel. I work part time and try to fit as much reading into my life as possible.
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