Before I was too far into Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, I stopped to read whatever of Patty Yumi Cottrell’s short fiction I could find via Google. It turns out that there’s quite a bit to be found, both in various literary journals and some stuff just published on websites. This isn’t an important or crucial step before reading her debut novel, but it does offer some insight to how much she’s grown as a writer. Also there’s the benefit of getting to read some really fantastic short fiction including “Young Robert” which is undoubtedly one of the best short stories I’ve ever come across.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace starts out with an IKEA couch delivery. Title character Helen is the only one home in the small NYC studio apartment so she has to accept the delivery of her roommates new leather couch. During the delivery she is given some horrible news by a relative she doesn’t recognize: her adoptive brother is dead, by suicide no less. She believes almost instantly that there has to be a reason for her adoptive brother’s suicide and decides to travel back to her hometown of Milwaukee to launch herself into an all out investigation into her brother’s motives.
Cottrell’s debut novel is delivered to the reader in short, punchy chapters. Helen travels back to Milwaukee and the book follows her on her investigation, as she calls it, to find out what happened to her adoptive brother. She encounters all sorts of people along the way: her adoptive parents of course, but also friends and other people she didn’t even know existed in her adoptive brother’s life. Cottrell’s writing is both emotional and funny. One minute Helen will be ranting about how annoyed she is at something, the next she will be lost in existential thoughts. It feels like a mystery from the get-go but then graduates to something much larger and more important for Helen. She wants to learn about her adoptive brother’s untimely demise, but also ends up learning a bit about herself before she’s through with her hometown.
Rating: 4 out of 5 – Cottrell’s debut is impressive. Packed with feelings and questions, it’s fair to say it’s just as much about the narrator’s journey of self discovery as it is about her quest to learn about her brother’s suicide.
Check out Cottrell’s short story “Young Robert” here.