Overall rating: 4/5
Genre: Cozy mystery, humorous fiction, romance
Read if you loved: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan with a hint of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Content warnings: Murder, tampering with a corpse
Hello everyone! I hope you are all having a fantastic week. I’m currently sitting here writing this review as a way to take a break from my take-home biodefense final, so that’s how my day is going. While take-home exams have obvious advantages, it’s so much harder for me to sit down and get it all done in one go since that pressure is nonexistent (at least until Sunday when it’s due 🙃). But anyways, enough about my grad school woes and onto this review. After a string of pretty bleak/emotionally heavy/straight up depressing books, I needed a break. And my goodness did Dial A for Aunties come through with exactly what I needed. Gosh, okay, I’m going to give you a super brief synopsis because you should honestly go into this as blind as possible…trust me.
Meddelin Chan accidentally kills her blind date when things take a turn for the creepy. Frazzled and distressed, she makes a series of poor decisions in the wake of her shock that lead to her mother and three meddlesome aunties getting involved in what has to be the funniest cover-up operation ever. To make things worse, they also have a family wedding business, and it just so happens to be the weekend of their biggest event to date. Dial A for Aunties is an amalgamation of true crime, rom-com, and family drama, all packaged into an equal parts quirky and heartwarming story that is guaranteed to make you literally laugh out loud. And I do mean literally.
I have racked my brain about whether I have ever read a cozy mystery before and…I don’t think I have. Where have I been and why have I not explored this genre before because it is everything I ever wanted??? You get the suspense and mystery without alllll the negative energy that typically comes along with stories involving, well, murder. Trust me when I say that I have never been this animated while reading before. I was cackling, gasping, tearing up…the whole nine yards. This novel has so much charm and character to it, and I don’t have the words to do it justice. Just when you think the plot has peaked, there’s a new surprise around the corner, and it just keeps getting better (and more ridiculous). And then there are the characters. Wow. Each and every auntie is so vibrant, their personalities are so distinct, and the conversations and dynamics that ensue between them are well developed and hilarious.
On top of the delightful vibes in this book, there is so much that Sutanto does here that is special. While I’m not Indonesian-Chinese, my own culture has a lot in common with what is described in the book, particularly when it comes to Meddie’s relationship with her family. She prefaces the book by addressing the aunties’ broken English, and how she does not write it that way to mock them or play into racial stereotypes, but to reflect her own experiences with her family and instead highlight their sacrifices. This is something I deeply relate to and I appreciated the way she handled this in the storytelling. More than the comic relief, the love that Meddie has for her mom and aunties really shines through – it is not without its complexities, but Sutanto captures the nooks and crannies of their relationship in a beautiful way. She also tackles the difficulties of being a third-culture kid, specifically the challenges around balancing a traditional family with finding yourself in a society with vastly different values. It added a layer to the story that went deeper than just the comedy, really sealing its position as a memorable story.
While this isn’t really a critique of the book, I will say that you definitely need to be in the mood for a book like this. It is not realistic, by any means. It is ridiculous, absurd, and utterly chaotic but it is also very self-aware of its nature, and that’s a part of its charm. If you are someone who requires some semblance of reality in their reading, this might not be for you, but if you are even slightly on the fence, it is absolutely worth the try. Some parts definitely jolted me a little bit, but I quickly came around to accepting the story for what it is. That being said, I did feel at one point that Meddie’s internal monologue was becoming very repetitive, and I started to become increasingly frustrated with some of her decision-making and logic (or lack there-of).
I would 100% recommend Dial A for Aunties to everybody. Really, I think everyone needs some of this in their life. It’s a particularly good book to pick up on a bad day or to get out of a reading slump or cleanse your palate after a sad book. And if that hasn’t convinced you, then know that it’s being made into a Netflix movie (yesssss!!!!!) so you definitely want to get on this. For now, I will be on the hunt for all the cozy mysteries because I have been missing out and need so much more of this in my life. Until next time, bibliophiles!