Poor Meddelin Chan.
She just hit the curse jackpot.
Still heartbroken from a college breakup, she also killed her blind date — accidental death but still.
(Not a spoiler.)
Jesse Q Sutanto’s debut is a hilarious mishmash of genres and a charming peek at Chinese-Indo culture. Her humor shines as she switches from romantic comedy to cozy mystery as smoothly as an inscrutable auntie dishing out compliment and insult in one breath.
(“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”)
The Chans are four formidable sisters. The eldest is a baker, the second sister is a make-up artist, the third sister is a florist, and the youngest is an entertainer.
Meddelin, the daughter of the third sister, is the wedding photographer. Despite taking photography, she never dreamt of joining the family business. She has some choice words about the billion-dollar wedding industry. But the good daughter that she is — “unlike her cousins and uncles” — she sacrificed her chance at love to help her family.
The story picks up after her mother sets her up on a blind date with a “hotelier.”
Sutanto took her readers on a trip from a terrible blind date, a car accident, and a criminal cover-up. It is one of the funniest chapters in the book. She has irresistible confidence in her characters that enables her to balance mirth and macabre. She has a knack for knowing which appropriate aunt should make the inappropriate retort in any given situation.
(There is a character named Tom Cruise Sutopo.)
To make matters worse, the Chans are in the middle of preparation for a high-profile wedding, and — of course — the corpse will find itself at the center of the occasion. Our heroine becomes an amateur detective as she tries to solve another crime that dropped in her lap. Did I mention someone from her romantic past makes an appearance? No, his name is not Tom Cruise Sutopo.
I was skeptical if the author can pull off a cozy mystery in the middle of the story.
Further, she added one more twist to “punish” skeptics like me.
(There is a proposal at a dimsum restaurant.)
Of course, there is.
Families help us soar and keep us grounded at the same time. It is a chaotic, persistent, and inescapable relationship. Meddelin had to learn to become more assertive and, in return, earn the respect of her mother and aunts. It is difficult to cut the cord that tethers us to our families, but mutual respect stretches it to a more acceptable distance.
Sutanto underscores that her book is not representative of the entire Asian community. “No single book can possibly represent such a large community of individuals,” she adds.
Communities of people are not monolithic structures.
In the same manner, not all stories about immigrants are the same. Not all of their stories are about pain. It is also consequential to celebrate their aspirations, foibles, and quirks — and that includes stashing corpses in plain sight.