This was a book club choice for my long-distance book club! We wanted to pick an AAPI author for AAPI Heritage Month, but as life happens, we (alright, it was definitely on me) ended up not actually being able to finish in time to discuss it actually during May… However, I am so glad this was the book we voted for, even though it took me awhile to get my hands on it, because once I started it, it was a sprint to the finish – I couldn’t put it down!
Meddy Chan works as a photographer as part of her family’s wedding business, along with her mother and three aunts who take care of cake, flowers, hair/make-up, and entertainment. When her mother meddles in her dating life, impersonating her on a dating site, Meddy agrees to go on the date she sets up. But things take a turn when she accidentally murders the date. Thankfully, her mother and aunties are there to help her hide and get rid of the body. However, their mixed priorities, interfamilial squabbles, and a surprising turn of events leads to the body ending up in a cooler at a major wedding they’ve been hired to do. A wedding that just so happens to be held at a new hotel run by an ex-boyfriend that Meddy has never gotten over. Can Meddy figure out how to get away with murder, re-kindle a romance, and manage her family? She might even be able to do all that and find herself along the way.
This is potentially one of the most fun books I have ever read. Like, part how to get away with murder, part family drama, part failed heist, part rom-com, all told with a fantastically light and humorous narration. Although at times there were some aspects that required some suspension of disbelief to really get into, it was totally worth it for the entertainment value. And to her credit, the author did a really solid job of creating conditions that, while leaning towards unbelievable, skirted close enough to the line to make it reasonable-ish to suspend that disbelief. Reading all the bumbling but well-meaning ways that Meddy’s mother and aunts try to help her deal with the dead body of her date, the sibling rivalries and family loyalty and the numerous twists and ways that their plans go wrong and make things worse – it’s a comedy of errors that just gets better and more ridiculous in all the best ways. I don’t want to give anything away, because that would ruin the ride for you, but the way that so many extra people get involved, from Meddy’s ex/the hotel owner Nathan, to the bride and groom and maid of honor, to the local sheriff…it was all great.
As far as some of the character pieces, they’re fairly surface-level, in the same way that the plot is more for enjoyment than depth. The author does recognize this (mentioning the likelihood of insta-love in the sub-title of the first section even), which made me that much more inclined to let myself fall in headfirst and past the flippancy of the plot. So, while I was cheering for Meddy to get back with Nathan, because of course I was hoping for the happily ever after, I wasn’t ever like, invested in them. Similarly, I loved the way the big wedding storyline ended, it made my heart happy, even though my actual investment level was low. The most profound piece of this entire novel, however, was a relationship-based one. The Chinese-Indonesian mother-sister-aunt-daughter-niece connections are bustling and overbearing – it’s absolute perfection. You can feel, so very deeply, the personal associations and experiences that Sutanto has with that aspect of the novel. I mean, after reading her Introduction Author’s Note (which, by the way, was great – really setting up her hopes and goals in what she’s portraying and honoring, while recognizing the ways she might fail…it really put me in the right mind-space from which to read the novel), it was no surprise. But expected or not, it was still far and away one of my favorite things: warm and self-deprecatingly funny, while clearly full of honor and love and gratitude.
This was such a cozy book and I legitimately had the best time reading it. There was a sort of comfortable camaraderie that Sutanto creates with her writing and you can’t help but love and cheer for things to work out for Meddy and her aunties, despite the myriad hilariously terrible plans they make. What a fun AF story. I hope they make it a movie because I would watch the sh*t out of it!