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Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Much Anticipated Rom-Com A Little Too Madcap

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

At 26, Meddelin Chan is playing the part of the dutiful Asian daughter by living with her mother and working as a photographer for the family wedding planning business.  It's not exactly what she had in mind for her future, but she can't allow herself to follow her cousins' shameful examples by flitting off to a more exotic clime in search of her own life, leaving her mother behind to cluck over her disloyalty.  Even as she yearns for freedom, Meddy has to admit she finds reluctant comfort in the way her mom and her mom's three loud, overbearing sisters fuss over her every move.  When a bad blind date takes a turn for the much, much worse, she knows exactly who to call.  Turns out, when it comes to hiding a body, her always-feuding, middle-aged aunties are better than the mob.  

Meddy's timing couldn't be worse, however.  With the biggest wedding of their career about to unfold, the women have to bring their A-game to the sparkling event.  Having a corpse along for the ride is not exactly helping.  Things become even more complicated when Meddy realizes her college boyfriend—the one she has pined for ever since their devastating break-up four years ago—is part of the wedding.  Then, the groomsmen get too plastered to walk down the aisle, millions of dollars in gifts go missing, a storm descends on the resort venue, and everything else that could possibly go wrong does.  A suspicious sheriff on the premises could mean the end of the charade and the incarceration of Meddy and her unlikely accomplices.  Can the ladies pull off both a flawless wedding and the perfect crime?  Or will they be planning their next event behind bars, wearing those oh-so-unflattering orange jumpsuits? 

Ever since I heard about Dial A for Aunties, a debut novel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, I knew I wanted to read it.  It just sounded like the perfect light-hearted blend of rom-com and cozy mystery.  Sure, it would be far-fetched and silly, but it also promised to be a fun, upbeat romp.  I've read a lot of dark, depressing books lately, so I was down for something different.  My verdict?  Dial A for Aunties is a fun read in lots of ways.  The "aunties" are definitely the highlight of the story with their constant bickering, hilarious malapropisms, and misplaced pride.  While little about the plot makes any logical sense, it is entertaining in its madcap absurdity.  I also appreciated the #OwnVoices aspect of this novel, in which Sutanto highlights her own Indonesian-Chinese heritage.  All of these elements combine to make the story humorous and entertaining.

I read mostly serious books, which sometimes makes it tough for me to really appreciate a kooky comedy.  So, while I found Dial A for Aunties entertaining, its quick transitions from silly to ridiculous to utterly absurd did drive me a little crazy after a while.  By the end of the story, I was very much done with the over-the-top-ness of it all.  Even in a screwball story like this, there has to be some logic governing the characters' actions, right?  Another thing that tempers the fun in this one is that it's actually very R-rated.  I was surprised to find F-bombs being dropped all over the place, as well as a plethora of innuendo and less subtle sexual references.  This just didn't fit the fun, cozy-ish vibe Dial A for Aunties seemed to be going for.  I admit to going into this book with unrealistically high expectations, which maybe contributed to me feeling (disproportionally?) disappointed in it.  Nevertheless, I found myself wishing for a less daffy, more PG version of this novel.  This opinion will probably make me an outlier in the book blogging world (which is totally okay), but for me, Dial A for Aunties was just an average read.  An entertaining one, just one that didn't turn out to be as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivien Chien)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language, violence, sexual innuendo and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC for Dial A for Aunties from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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