This review contains mild spoilers for “Dial A for Aunties,” the first novel in the Meddelin Chan series.
You know, when I saw the premise for “Dial A for Aunties,” I thought to myself, “This can’t possibly get any weirder.” It is, in fact, incredibly weird — after accidentally killing a guy, Meddelin Chan finds herself and her family of wedding vendors in a comedy of errors as they try to hide the body at the wedding that they’re working.
What I didn’t realize, though, is that Jesse Q. Sutanto has it in herself to, in fact, get even weirder.
“Four Aunties and a Wedding” begins a while after “Dial A for Aunties” ended. Meddy is now preparing for her own wedding rather than working someone else’s, and she’s a ball of nerves trying to handle her mom and three aunts. Thankfully, her family isn’t working on her own wedding — they’ve found a Chinese-Indonesian family vaguely related to them to manage wedding preparations.
(As Meddy’s Big Aunt puts it, it’s Meddy’s “grandmother cousin niece cousin sister-in-law. Very close family.”)
But then Meddy overhears one of the wedding vendors talking about taking out a target, and all of a sudden, this isn’t just any old wedding — she and her aunts now need to prevent the mafia (like, the ACTUAL MAFIA????) from turning Meddy’s wedding into a crime scene.
Yeah. I know. Taking on the mafia while getting married to the love of your life, all tied up in a book about the importance of your family and the unique experience of being a child of immigrants from a very different culture.
What “Four Aunties and a Wedding” does, though, is extend the portrayal of Meddy’s family to the view of outsiders. Meddy’s fiancé, Nathan, is as Chinese as Meddy is, but his family is rich and English and quite concerned with their image. Seeing them interact with Meddy’s wild family is infuriating, but it’s also a reminder that Asians are not a monolith.
In the meantime, the family working Meddy’s wedding — the mafia family — is on the other end of the spectrum. They understand Meddy’s family extremely well, and they’re quite alike, but, of course, they’re determined to take down somebody at this wedding. So that’s fun.
There’s a kind of magic to Sutanto’s writing, the way she’s able to squeeze so much ridiculous plot and humor into a book and have it still be absolutely full of heart. She tackles complicated issues of culture and family ties while also creating convoluted plotlines that’ll make you squeal with laughter.
Maybe it’s a testament to her range as a writer — her upcoming projects include a young adult rom-com, a middle grade fantasy, an adult thriller, an adult romcom and two more Meddelin Chan books.
Needless to say, I’ll be reading them all.
“Four Aunties and a Wedding” comes out on March 29, 2022. I received an early copy from the publisher, Berkley, in exchange for an honest review.