¬ Book Review: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

An absolute gem of a book! It is hilarious, fun and takes you on a roller coaster ride of family dynamics in Asian families. There is never a dull moment. I devoured this book and I cannot wait for the sequel.

Dial A for aunties is the story of a 26 year old girl who is torn between her hopes, dreams, desires and those of her mum and four aunties. She spends most of her life trying to be the obedient daughter that her mum and aunts raised her to be, almost never voicing out her true ambitions. She even gives up on the love of her life to fulfill her ‘duties’ as a daughter. All of that changes when she accidentally murders her date one night and instead of going to the police, she panics and comes back home with a corpse in the trunk of her car. A series of mishaps happen when together with her aunties and mum, she tries to get rid of the body. I do not want to spoil the book too much but there is a little bit of gay too in the book.

I learned a new term while reading this book, ‘filial piety’. According to britannica, filial piety refers to “an attitude of obedience, devotion, and care toward one’s parents and elder family members that is the basis of individual moral conduct and social harmony“. While this may sound like a blessing, it can also be quite burdening for children to grow up with that kind of pressure. I am intimately aware of the concept being of Asian (West) descent myself. The writer gives you a window into the psyche of Asian children, in a light, fun but poignant way. The struggle to keep your parents happy and satisfied while trying to have a life of your own and a sense of individuality is very well portrayed.

Filial piety is the main theme of the book from my perspective. Sticking to this theme, the writer feels the need to mention that this book is a love letter to her family both at the beginning of the book and in the acknowledgements. Of course, you would not want to offend anyone in the family because it would reflect badly on your parents and upbringing xD. There is an overall positive message but we all know that it is not always easy to navigate life when you come from that kind of upbringing. Anyway, filial piety deserves a well researched blog post on its own because I could go on and on about this.

Coming on to the gay part of the book, it did not make any sense at all (not to a fellow gay woman anyway). Spoilers ahead so stop reading if you have not read the book yet. I do not want to give too much context here but why would anyone steal jewellery as a way to confess one’s love? Theft is not the way to a woman’s heart! That is not how we do it in the gay world. A looooooong conversation or multiple long conversations is how the situation would play out in real life (yes i know it is a fiction). Plus, how come Maureen never got vibes from Jacqueline or vice versa? Gaydars are real and pretty accurate! Also, why does the gay woman have to be involved in shady shit? Stealing.. seeking the help of douchebags like Ah Guan.. Stealing guns from the police.. There could have been a different twist to that plot.

I am glad that there was no taboo regarding the gays in the book but I do wish that there was more research done for that part. The writer has a lot of creativity, imagination and is very intelligent from what I have read so far. Having the gay character be suspicious and involved in crazy shit disappointed me. Now I am certain there was no malintent here and I love the book and I am rooting for it. Consider me a fan of the writer too. It just did not feel as genuine as the rest of the story. There is room for improvement here. It would also be refreshing to see a gay character in a positive light. I am also choosing to believe that it was not a gay bait because I loved the book so much.

I think I have rambled quite a bit now and you are probably asking yourself if the book is worth a read. The answer is YES! It is funny with unexpected twists, and very visual. I kept telling myself this could be turned into a movie before reading the acknowledgements. It is in fact being made into a movie by Netflix. Looking forward to that one! If you liked Crazy Rich Asians, you should definitely give this book a go. The book promises to make you laugh and it does!

Did you enjoy the book, stranger on the internet? What are your thoughts? Did you like it as much as I did? My queer people out there, what did you feel about that gay part? Eager to know. xoxo

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