Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell
Patty Yumi Cottrell’s stand-out debut novel opens with our protagonist, Helen, receiving a new IKEA sofa alongside the news that her adoptive brother has killed himself, which sets a tone of existential dread juxtaposed with absurdist humour. Helen, who fashions herself as 'Sister Reliable', decides to return home to her adoptive parents and crashes back into her childhood town while investigating her suspicions around the aforementioned suicide.
Frustrated, aggressive, marginalised, and darkly funny, Helen is a kaleidoscope of contradictions and, despite her nickname, is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. She remarks on the novel’s titular apology: ‘It could mean, I’m sorry, I made a mistake. It could mean, I’m sorry, I’ll ruin you, bitch.’ Helen disturbs all levels of peace – her adoptive parents’, her childhood suburban home’s, her own, and the reader’s. Simultaneously absorbent and repellent, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace pushes and pulls the reader to the point of alienation but never over the edge. The novel’s acerbic humour, deep empathy, and electrifying voice grounds the story in all facets of humanity by shining a light on society’s seedy underbelly.
Sometimes jarring, sometimes heart-breaking, and sometimes hilarious, Helen’s voice will grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you through its existential abyss. A detective story, family drama, and philosophical yarn, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace plays like Alexander Payne's 2013 film Nebraska, but on crack. [Katie Goh]