Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Book - 2016
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Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. Shes accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news: Helens adoptive brother is dead. According to the internet, there are six possible reasons why her brother might have killed himself. But Helen knows better: she knows that six reasons is only shorthand for the abyss. Helen also knows that she alone is qualified to launch a serious investigation into his death, so she 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 brothers few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor, Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive.
Publisher: San Francisco : McSweeney's, [2016]
ISBN: 9781944211301
Branch Call Number: Fic Cott
Characteristics: 263 pages ; 21 cm


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Oct 06, 2020

I was in turns spellbound, amused and horrified by this novel. The title alone reveals much about who the protagonist is, where her head is at:
"I'm sorry to disrupt the peace was my stock apology; I used it all the time as my workplace, it was a good apology because it could mean so many different things to people. It could mean, I'm sorry, I made a mistake. It could mean, I'm sorry, I'll ruin you, bitch."
The dysfunctional, conflicted reality of Helen Moran's life is announced right from the opening paragraph, by means of deliberately cumbersome, twitchy language. Stilted, formulaic phrasing: "adoptive parents"; "not cheaply built"; "at your service"; "humble servant". The atmosphere in her adoptive parents' home is lugubriously intense, strained. Helen's brand of humor is dark, cynical, sharply pointed like a glove made of barbed wire.
Helen contrives to make her outward appearance and behavior strange, unwelcoming, provocative; and yet, paradoxically she remains concerned about how her actions are perceived. Even in my dream, I had an adoptive brother who killed himself. Suicide was off the table for me. I would never be able to commit suicide, because everyone would say that I had copied him.
Like a dramatic actress, Cottrell has immersed herself (and us) in Helen's persona; that angry voice never wavers as she clings to the edge of her personal abyss. Helen rationalizes her actions, at times taking satisfaction in her own perversity. These are the tactics of a person at war with her own history. She is perturbed by her parents' cheapness but finds herself, willy-nilly emulating them — wearing ill-fitting cast-off clothes, mismatched shoes; it's not simply poverty at work here, there's something else in play, a form of personal protest against harmony, conventionality. It's never quite clear how much of her adoptive parents' eccentricities and lack of empathy are actual and how much has been conjured up within Helen's own warped perception of reality; her adoptive parents have become, in Helen's mind, caricatures of themselves. There are four personalities in play here, not one of them well balanced —there's more than enough weirdness to go around.
All in all, an astonishing novel.

HMWLibrary2017 Jul 14, 2017

Ugh. I really disliked this book. The narrator was utterly unlikeable, the brother's suicide implausible, and the adoptive parents border on abusive and not in a believable or even articulable way.

May 02, 2017

An insightful read! The author provokes the reader to think against the norm - to imagine why a young adoptive man might kill himself. It's not what you would likely think the reason is.


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