At the start of SORRY TO DISRUPT THE PEACE by Patty Yumi Cottrell, Helen Moran is accepting a delivery from IKEA when she gets the news that her adoptive brother is dead. She buys a one-way ticket from New York to Milwaukee, sending herself and her best intentions to her childhood home, where she launches into an investigation on suicide.
Everything in Patty’s query letter pricked up my ears: An obsessive narrator, you say? A funny book about death? Sheila Heti and Thomas Bernhard influences? Yes, please, that’s just my sort of thing. And yet, as Patty’s editor Andi Winnette told Publishers Weekly (“Writers to Watch Spring 2017: Anticipated Debuts”), the story and the voice is hers alone: “It’s so Patty Yumi Cottrell. She’s the only person who’s ever written this way.”
I finished reading the manuscript on my way back home to the Midwest, for a funeral, and it was startling to arrive ready to look at the experience a little askance, as Helen Moran might. Helen and her adoptive family are on the surface like any other Sears family portrait in front of a fake-brick fireplace, but I think Patty’s given us a new way to see their strangeness, the bizarre in their everyday. You ride shotgun to Helen’s preoccupations in a happy trance until you’re suddenly on a shaky ground of near-reality, grasping at clues and objects—a black-ribbed turtleneck, say—like signposts.
Jesse Ball calls the novel “a graceful claim not just about writing but about a way of being in the world, an always new and necessary way to contend with this garbage that surrounds us, these false portraits of our hearts and minds. This book is not a diversion—it’s a lifeline.” You’ll be charmed and dismayed by Helen, and split your sides laughing, but by the time you reach the last page, you will be satisfied and devastated and a little bit more human.
Read an excerpt on Buzzfeed.
And see Patty on tour here:
Tuesday, March 14th at Skylight Books with Amina Cain
Saturday, March 18th at Green Apple Books
Monday, March 20th at Boswell Books
Friday, March 24th at NYPL with Alexandra Kleeman and Ariana Reines
Monday, March 27th at Barnes & Noble, 82nd and Broadway
Saturday, April 1st at Austin Public Library with Dan Chaon and Scott Blackwood at the 8th Annual New Fiction Confab