I wouldn’t quite call this a black comedy—it’s a little too lighthearted and frothy for that—but it’s definitely leaning in that direction. The plot kicks off when Meddelin Chan accidentally kills her blind date, and panicking, enlists the help of her mom (and thus her three aunties) to deal with the body.
Meddy and her family are Indonesian of Chinese descent, and they are extremely close-knit. They also run a wedding business together: Meddy is the photographer, her mom does the flowers, Big Aunt does the cakes, Second Aunt does the hair and makeup, and Fourth Aunt is the entertainment. After a series of mishaps, the body ends up accidentally carted to the island where the Chans are working their biggest wedding yet. Farcical complication after complication occurs as they frantically try to hide the body and get away with Meddy’s accidental crime, all while helping to pull off a wedding for a rich and important family on an extremely exclusive resort that just so happens to be owned and run by Meddy’s college sweetheart—and the love of her life, the one that got away—Nathan Chan (no relation).
First, the one complaint I had, and it’s a small one. I thought the romance between Nathan and Meddy was just a tad underbaked. Or maybe it’s just that it was not as fun as the rest of it, and so paled in comparison to everything with the aunties and the wedding and the groomsmen (oh lord) and all the other shenanigans going on. Nathan sort of acts as the straight man, which can be hard to pull off. There are flashbacks to their time dating (and breaking up) so the author did put in the work. I just wished every time we were in a flashback that it would go back to the nonsense with the aunties.
Literally everything else worked for me, and worked beautifully. The author lives in Indonesia, but speaks English fluently. The book is set in the USA, among the immigrant community, so there is so much lovely detail about Chinese and Indonesian culture: the food, the family dynamics, wedding traditions, language. And for a debut author (although, technically this was her second book as her first was published two months earlier!) I was particularly impressed by her handle on characterization. The aunties were so vivid and fun to read about.
If you like audiobooks, I do recommend the audio. Risa Mei appears to be Indonesian American from the bio on her website, so correct me if I’m wrong there, but she does an excellent job. I think I would have loved the aunties no matter what, but Mei’s rendition of them makes them absolutely come to life.
I will be reading this one again, and buying a hard copy for sure. I’m also super pumped it’s being adapted for Netflix by Nahnatchka Khan, as I’ve historically been really into her whole thing as a writer and director.