27 Oct / Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell [in Library Journal]
Helen receives a call from her “Uncle Geoff” (although she’s unsure of how they’re related) that her 29-year-old adoptive brother has killed himself. Both Helen and her brother were adopted as babies from Korea by a white – some might add willfully culturally illiterate – Milwaukee couple.
At 32, Helen is a disgraced former artist now working with troubled youth. Determined to understand why her undemanding, quiet brother chose death, she buys a one-way ticket from New York City to their adoptive parents’ home – a place she once fled, where she now is less than welcome.
That Helen never refers to members of her family without the “adoptive” disclaimer relentlessly emphasizes her estrangement, a detail that narrator Nancy Wu excels at highlighting with her eerily detached matter-of-fact tone. Her reading is purposely, effectively mismatched against the often absurd, repeatedly shocking occurrences that define Helen’s no-filters descriptions of her perplexing life. Although Wu doesn’t quite have the “deep voice like a man” that Helen self-describes, her flexible narration expertly captures Patty Yumi Cottrell’s inventive, disturbing noir-ish tragicomedy.
Verdict: Wu does gratifying justice to this highly buzzed debut novel already in high demand.