Book club

Forget 9-1-1, when in a pickle call the aunties

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

Photo by Delia Brandel

I’ve said it once before and I will say it yet again — spring break is a beautiful thing, primarily because it gives us weary bookish worms the opportunity to read for fun for the first time in months. 

I took advantage of that and read, as you all will remember from a few weeks ago, “Book Lovers” by Emily Henry. But what I haven’t told you all is about one of the other ones I managed to snag as well. 

Over the years — okay, fine, more like months — I’ve worked in bookstores, I’d noticed “Dial A for Aunties” by Jesse Q. Sutanto a number of times. A picture of its cover lived in my camera roll for the longest time, and it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I picked it up. 

I had no idea what the book was about before I started it — something I have been increasingly fond of, recently — and just let the audiobook play. Here’s what I walked into:

Meddelin Chan, the daughter of Chinese-Indonesian immigrants living in California, is cursed. Her whole family is. The curse in question says that all the men in her family will leave at one point or another and never come back. 

So far, it has proven to be true with her grandfathers, uncles, boy cousins and even her father abandoning the women in their family. As one of the few young people remaining, and one of the only girls, too, she is determined to stand by her mom and aunties if it’s the last thing she does. 

So, when Meddy goes to college she chooses a university close to home. She visits on weekends and even takes on the role of professional photographer when her aunties come up with the grand idea of starting a wedding business. 

Meddy is so incredibly loyal to her mom and aunties that she doesn’t tell them when she meets Nathan, a certifiable hunk and the love of her life, while still in college. They date up until graduation before Meddy, fearing the curse and hurting her mother’s feelings, breaks things off. 

Years go by and Meddy isn’t over Nathan yet. Any dates she’s gone on since then were half-hearted at best and she has no real intentions of putting herself back out there. 

But Meddy’s mom has other ideas. 

In desperate want of grandbabies, Meddy’s mother creates an online dating profile for her daughter and takes the liberty of setting up a date for her. Meddy is shocked, appalled by the idea, but is ultimately forced to go at the “request” of her aunties. 

The date in question is a hotshot hotel owner, who wears loafers with no-show socks and flaunts his wealth any chance he gets. Meddy plays nice but eyes the clock throughout dinner, counting down the minutes until she can make her escape. 

But after having one too many glasses of wine, Meddy isn’t fit to drive home. No matter how many times she assures her date that she’ll just get an Uber home, he all but forces her to let him drive her home. 

She doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but feeling like she’s out of options, she double-checks that her handy-dandy taser is still in her purse before she gets in. (Just your typical woman-ly things.)

Meddy is glad she checked because when her date takes a wrong turn and starts to leave the city and lit streets turn into abandoned warehouse-looking backroads, she gets nervous. 

She tells him, hey, bucko (I’m paraphrasing), stop the car right now or else. And when he doesn’t listen, she tases him. Right in the neck. While he’s driving. 

Uh oh. 

When the car crashes, Meddy is left unharmed — but her date? Not so much. 

After a series of oh-my-god-please-don’t-be-deads, Meddy shoves the guy into her trunk — unfortunate choice — and drives him not to the police station, not to the hospital, but to her mom’s house. And when her mom sees him, what does she do? Calls over the aunties, of course. 

From there begins a grand adventure of hiding the body whilst simultaneously pulling off their biggest wedding of the year, and when worlds collide and Nathan — yes, that Nathan — somehow manages to get involved, things get a little topsy-turvy. 

I laughed. I cried. Then laughed some more. Pick up “Dial A For Aunties” for one wild murder-mystery-romance ride. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected].