Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Series: Aunties #1
Published April 27th 2021 by Berkley
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Representation: Indonesian-Chinese cast
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?
Meddeline’s family has a curse: Every male in the family would leave one day. It didn’t matter when or why, they would inevitably move far away from the family. Refusing to play a part in this curse, Meddeline broke up with her college boyfriend who had a great opportunity elsewhere, and stayed by her aunts and Ma’s side for the past seven years.
Fate does its thing and Meddeline bumps into said college boyfriend who she had never really gotten over. It seemed like seven years didn’t even exist between them with how comfortable they were talking to one another. Nathan obviously didn’t forget his college love either.
The romance was really cute. As Meddeline tries to balance sneaking around with a dead body and conjuring up a plan to ensure everything runs smoothly so that the wedding isn’t ruined, bumping into Nathan sends her emotions in a frenzy.
When Meddeline accidentally killed her blind date and the dead body was accidentally transported to the wedding venue, everything turned into chaos for those in the know. Every moment with them trying to salvage the situation aka by hiding the body somewhere, I’m just laughing my ass off and facepalming.
The antiques that the aunties come up with were hilarious. First up, Ma decided to join an online dating site as Meddeline essentially cat-fishing and spends a bit of time chatting up with a hotelier named Jake. You can bet that all the sexual innuendos flew right over Ma’s head. I couldn’t stop laughing when Meddeline looked at the texts. Another moment is when the aunties went over the wide variety of fruits (“oooo, mangoes! dragon fruits!”) instead of the dead body in the trunk while Meddeline freaks out at the corner.
Big Aunt nods solemnly. “I hear about this kind of Internet scam before. Is called goldfish.”
“Catfish,” I say.
“No, I’m sure is call goldfish. Because pretend got gold, but actually just a fish.”
Despite them always bickering, the four sisters own a successful wedding business with the slogan “Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!” Big aunt bakes the wedding cakes while second aunt handles the makeup and hairstyles. In charge of the flower arrangement if Meddeline’s Ma and fourth aunt is the entertainer/performer. All the wedding happiness and ceremonies are captured by Meddeline the photographer. However, Meddeline has been thinking about how she doesn’t feel satisfied with her job.
Sister rivalry exists between fourth aunt and Ma, and there’s friction between big and second aunts. There’s also blatant favoritism and selected dislike amongst the four sisters when they started praising or nitpicking actions and words. Despite them always quarreling, the Chan sisters are close. Whatever they say or do always stemmed from a place of love and family which is a significant theme of Dial A for Aunties.
I adored the writing style, especially the way Jesse Q. Sutanto crafts the dialogues. There’s always a mixture of languages, such as English, Indonesian, and Mandarin when the aunties talked. This added another layer of familiarity as I was reading the book since it’s reflective of the diverse cultures of their family.
The next review is the sequel to Dial A for Aunties, Four Aunties and a Wedding. Do not trespass if you haven’t read book one!
Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Series: Aunties #2
Published March 29th 2022 by Berkley Books
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Representation: Indonesian-Chinese cast
Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.
Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family–actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene–over their dead bodies–and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.
Thought it was such a shame that Dial A for Aunties was a standalone. Then Jesse Q. Sutanto announced that there would be a second book with the plot surrounding Meddy’s wedding! 🍾🥂 I knew it would be chaotic, messy, hilarious, and an absolute fun time. The author did not disappoint me a single bit. I finished it within the day it was published because the shenanigans that the aunties and Meddy got into were simply too entertaining.
After finding out that her wedding vendors are a mafia family, Meddy and her aunties are determined to prevent anything bloody from happening. Meddy’s mom was more concerned about it being bad luck to murder someone during the wedding. Asian superstition about curses > the notion of killing someone. But when Second Aunt mentioned that the death of Ah Guan brought about Meddy’s wedding and how killing someone else now might welcome a grandbaby (what logic), Ma was like “Okay, we kill him”. What a priceless exchange.
Turning up to a wedding with fake komodo dragons on their head attracted plenty of attention from the other guests, especially Meddy’s future parents-in-law. Understandably, Meddy was a little embarrassed about their behavior. On top of them trying to prevent mafia-related things from happening, the aunties are pretty bizarre to most people. What I loved was Meddy’s change of mind by the end of Four Aunties and a Wedding. She decided to embrace their quirkiness and their infinite love for her.
Deep down in my core, I am precisely the product of my family. When skin and flesh are ripped away, I am an exact replica of them.
During the wedding, things are awkward between the in-laws. While Nathan’s dad might be from Hong Kong, he had fully integrated into the Western culture. The difference between Nathan’s parents and Meddy’s family was glaring, especially when Meddy started to realize that Annie and Chris find her aunties’ actions weird. However, Meddy’s family are awesome. Ma and the aunties have been studying English for easier communication with Nathan’s family. It was such a sweet gesture. The British slang that they adopted into their dialogues was freaking hilarious.
It’s easy to adore how authentic Meddy’s aunties are. They have no inhibitions or concerns about others’ opinions. I loved that they were always there for Meddy, and would do anything to make sure her wedding goes smoothly. While there was quite a bit of hiccup along the way, Meddy’s aunties showed that tea, Tai Chi, and a little bit of TCM could solve some problems.
I can’t deny though, there were many moments when the second-hand embarrassment was on a catastrophic high. The aunties definitely know how to make things entertaining. Getting high on a wedding, how can??? Wearing komodo dragons as a hat decoration? Awe-inspiring. I was fully captivated by them.
What the Aunties duology showed me was the love within the family. Meddy’s Ma and aunties love her unconditionally and limitless. Hiding a body that Meddy accidentally killed out of self-defense? Sure. Making Meddy’s wedding is without blood-shed? Of course. They might not be the most poised of people or the most well-spoken in English, but Meddy’s family doesn’t need that. Four Aunties and a Wedding was an absolute delight. I couldn’t stop reading. While I was hoping that Meddy could enjoy her own big day, I was just waiting for more mayhem to ensue. What a pleasure it was.