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Dial A for Aunties


Dial A for Aunties

In Jesse Q. Sutanto’s DIAL A FOR AUNTIES, Meddelin Chan isn’t going to be like her cousins. She’s the good one and determined to stay that way, which means forgoing her dreams and the guy of her dreams to stay in California and work with her mom and aunts in their wedding business. It’s fine --- no really, it’s totally fine, she doesn’t even hate wedding photography --- and you know what, it’s probably for the best. The women in her family are cursed anyway. Every man they become romantically involved with ends up leaving, or worse. So yeah, it’s...fine.

Until, that is, her mother tries to encourage her to meet someone, and Meddy ends up accidentally killing her scumbag blind date. Of course, this happens in the middle of the biggest job the family business has ever had: an extravagant wedding weekend at an island resort. And of course, one of the hotel’s owners turns out to be Nathan, the love of Meddy’s life, the one she had to let go to stay in California. Somehow Meddy has to hide her date’s body and execute the perfect wedding with her family, while not making a fool of herself in front of her ex.

"Genuinely hilarious, romantic and sweet, DIAL A FOR AUNTIES is brilliantly crafted and compulsively fun to read."

Thankfully, she’s not alone. The real heart of this story is Meddy’s relationship with her mother and her three aunts. They’re Chinese-Indonesian immigrants, and Meddy is a diaspora kid. That generational divide brims with misunderstandings, expectations and so much love. They might not be coming from the same perspectives, but they would do absolutely anything to help Meddy --- including hide a body.

This is a brilliant, genre-blending premise, and so much goes on within these pages. Sutanto deftly balances every storyline, crafting a wildly fun and light-hearted murder-comedy-romance, with family at its heart. I don’t share Meddy’s exact background, but I do come from my own big Asian immigrant community, and I found so much of my own family within these pages that it made me ache. This is a celebration of the closeness of diaspora families across generations, of Indo-Chinese family dynamics, of filial respect, customs and love. This is a paean to Asian immigrant women, community and creativity, resilience and joy. It’s also a Weekend at Bernie’s-esque murder romp, with lots of gags and deliciously cringeworthy scenes, near-disaster moments and twist after gasp-aloud twist.

Sutanto balances all of these elements beautifully and believably. It works, first and foremost, because of Meddy. Her voice is funny, awkward and relatable, whether she’s swooning over her gorgeous ex or horrified that her aunts’ sense of propriety might strike at the wrong moment and get them all arrested for murder. She’s easy to root for and awfully fun to read.

Even as DIAL A FOR AUNTIES moves the plot through hijinks and heartfelt scenes alike, it’s always deeply, refreshingly compassionate and inclusive. This lens is what makes the novel truly stand out to me. Sutanto’s thoughtful, specific twists not only make it a joy to read, they subvert genre expectations in creative and rewarding ways. Not only do we get the best sort of fun out of the story, we get to feel pleasantly surprised by Sutanto’s resolutions. This is a great model of how to write a big-hearted murder-comedy.

Genuinely hilarious, romantic and sweet, DIAL A FOR AUNTIES is brilliantly crafted and compulsively fun to read. I love every character and how Sutanto brings the specificity of their family into this premise. It works effortlessly. I’m so glad this book already has been snagged for screen rights. It’s going to be a romp, and the ostentatious wedding at the center of the plot is going to translate into so much fun on the screen.

Don’t miss this one if you’re in the mood for some feel-good hijinks. Jesse Q. Sutanto is an author to watch!

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on May 8, 2021

Dial A for Aunties
by Jesse Q. Sutanto

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0593333039
  • ISBN-13: 9780593333037