Shelf Care: Drama and a dead body at an epic wedding

Dial A For Aunties By Jesse Q. Sutanto.
Dial A For Aunties By Jesse Q. Sutanto.PHOTO: MICHAEL HART, BERKLEY

Fiction

Dial A For Aunties
By Jesse Q. Sutanto
Berkley/ 2020/ 352 pages/ $27.82/ Available here

Wedding receptions! Remember those?

It is at least another week before one can hold a wedding reception in Singapore, thanks to the extension of heightened alert measures. You can, however, get nuptially nostalgic with Jakarta-based Sutanto's dark comedy about murder and meddling relatives.

Photographer Meddelin Chan, an American millennial raised by her Indonesian-Chinese mother and aunts, fears she will never gain her independence from the family wedding planning business ("Don't leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!")

But then the guy she is on a date with attempts to assault her and she accidentally winds up killing him.

In a colossally funny sequence, she has to call on her aunts for help - but her mother keeps making her slice fruit for them first.

"Your aunties coming over, so late at night, coming to help us get rid of body, and we don't even offer them any food?" she calmly tells a flabbergasted Meddy.

"Help me peel, don't be so rude to your aunties, you will bring shame."

The Chan sisters must set aside their manifold rivalries to help their beloved Meddy get away with manslaughter, all while executing an epic Indonesian wedding at an island resort and dealing with the reappearance of Meddy's ex-boyfriend Nathan, for whom she still has feelings.

This madcap concoction tops debacle with debacle to hysterical effect, as everything that could possibly go wrong with a wedding - drunken groomsmen, bride breaking down, inconvenient corpse and so on - goes spectacularly wrong.

It has all the frothiness of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians (2013), but is told not from the perspective of the billionaire elite but the vendors who get things done for them.

The novel has been picked up for a screen adaptation by Netflix and director-producer Nahnatchka Khan, who created Asian-American sitcom Fresh Off The Boat (2015 to 2020).

Till that comes to pass, though, there is already plenty of fun to be had on the page.

• Shelf Care is a twice-weekly column that recommends uplifting, comforting or escapist books to read while staying home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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