Author(s): Patty Yumi Cottrell
Description: Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. She's accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news- Helen's adoptive brother is dead. Helen knows what she must do, and purchases a one-way ticket to Milwaukee. There, as she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die, she will face her estranged family, her brother's few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive. A bleakly comic debut that's by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and unsettling, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowles-and it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a debut novel from Patti Yumi Cottrell. Our unreliable narrator Helen Moran, ironically nick-named Sister Reliability, receives a call while waiting for her flatmate’s new Ikea sofa to be delivered to their tiny apartment. It’s her uncle telling her that her adoptive brother has died. Helen immediately decides to leave New York and head home to Milwaukee with the sole purpose of investigating his death. Estranged from her adoptive parents - she hasn’t seen them for 5 years - she arrives on their doorstep with inappropriate questions, criticisms and demands. This would all seem rather tiresome if it wasn’t for Cottrell’s ability to create a character like Helen Moran. Helen is 32, childless, lives in a tiny shared apartment, and is partially employed as a counsellor helping troubled youth. She, like her brother, who isn’t a blood relation, is Korean and her family members are always referred to as ‘adoptive’ - the adoptive parents, the adoptive brother etc. Helen Moran looks at the world through a lens that is peculiarly off-beat but also probing, bringing truths that maybe should remain nameless to the surface. At times, being inside Helen’s head felt like a psychotic episode - the author intends you to feel uncomfortable. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a sharp look at what growing up Asian-American in suburbia looks like, how being an outsider - not having a sense of belonging - affects the ways in which you observe the world around, and why unhappiness leads to suicide for some and a determination to embrace life for others. While Helen is hardly likeable, her determination to make the most of what she has - while living in New York, she wrote an essay about how to survive on next to nothing in the city; she cares for troubled youth, breaking the rules of her workplace in an attempt to make meaningful connections - and her unwavering close observations of people to reveal what makes life tick are strangely admirable. When we hear Helen described as looking like a homeless person we are hardly surprised - by this stage we have been in the head of Moran for a while and watched her decide that her parents’ grief is a balding middle aged man who eats pizza; she has taken apart the bouquets of flowers and dumped them a bucket of bleach-saturated cleaning water to be helpful, she has eaten the whole special cake which is meant for mourners, she has rifled through her parents' home in her detective endeavours to make sense of her brother’s suicide. Mostly it’s her behaviour and thoughts that lead you to think she is mad. However, as you read on, the day of the funeral approaches and as relatives and friends arrive with their sentimental pat comments, you wonder who’s deranged? One of the best things about Cottrell’s writing is her ability to embed so much humour, alongside philosophical musings from our odd narrator, into a story about disorientation and dislocation. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is blackly funny and will appeal to fans of Miriam Toews and Nell Zink.
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'[Cottrell's] voice is unflinching, unforgettable, and animated with a restless sense of humor.' Catherine Lacey, author of Nobody Is Ever Missing 'This book is not a diversion-it's a lifeline.' Jesse Ball, author of How to Set a Fire and Why 'Intelligent and mysterious and funny, Patty Yumi Cottrell's Sorry to Disrupt the Peace moves so mesmerizingly towards its blazingly good ending. One is tempted to read it as quickly as possible. But really, it is a book that should be read slowly, as some of its deepest pleasures lie in the careful observations, the witty prose, and just the book's really wonderful gaze on city life, and actually, on all life. This is a stunning debut.' Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat 'A sort of Korean-American noir, lean and wry and darkly compelling, I respectfully suggest you read her now.' Ed Park, author of Personal Days 'Patty Yumi Cottrell's prose does so many of my favorite things--some too subtle to talk about without spoiling, but one thing I have to mention is the way in which her heroine's investigation of a suicide draws the reader right into the heart of this wonderfully spiky hedgehog of a book and then elbows us yet further along into what is ultimately a tremendously moving act of imagination.' Helen Oyeyemi, author of What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours 'Sorry to Disrupt the Peace had me opening my mouth to laugh only to feel sobs come tumbling out. It's absurd, feeling so much at once, but it's a distinctly human absurdity that Patty Yumi Cottrell has masterfully created in this book. In the end I felt ebullient and spent, grateful to be reminded that life is only funny and gorgeous because life is also strange and sad.' Lindsay Hunter, author of Ugly Girls 'Grief takes an unnerving path through a singular mind in Sorry to Disrupt the Peace. Beckett fans will find a familiar, but Patty Yumi Cottrell's voice is her very own.' Amelia Gray, author of Gutshot: Stories 'Behind every suicide, there is a door.' So says Helen, aka Sister Reliability, aka 'spinster from a book,' who is determined to open the door behind her adoptive brother's recent death. Her search takes her from a studio apartment in NYC to a childhood home in Milwaukee, and yet the investigation is as philosophical as it is practical, as was, perhaps, the death itself. Patty Yumi Cottrell's Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a beguiling debut: absurdly funny, surprisingly beautiful, and ultimately sad as fuck.' Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First 'Cottrell gives Helen the impossible task of understanding what would drive another person to suicide, and the result is complex and mysterious, yet, in the end, deeply human and empathetic.' Publishers Weekly 'A bleakly funny comic tour de force that's by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling.' My Cup and Chaucer
Patty Yumi Cottrell's work has appeared in BOMB, Gulf Coast, and Black Warrior Review, among other places. She lives in Los Angeles.