The Disruptors

Review From User :

"Part of the purpose of my investigation was to shed some light in the holes and the crevices and the parts of his life that didn't line up, the odd details, etc. It reminded me of shining the flashlight into the crevices of my once-bedbug-infested bed, except instead of bedbugs, I was searching for the odd, and the surprising details of someone's life, the strangeness. What was the primary driving force for his life I wondered."

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is a book that allows the reader to dive deep into the mind of Helen Moran, a 32 year old woman who was adopted from Korea into a family that was highly religious. Her adoptive parents' interpretation of their religion seeped into all parts of their life, including money and expectations of family. When Helen receives a call that lets her know that her brother has died by suicide, this sends her back to her hometown in Milwaukee to her parents' home where she begins to attempt to unfold her brother's experience and what could possibly have led to his suicide.

I rarely give 5 stars; 3 stars + is a good rating for me. Two things can push a book into 5 star territory: 1) If it makes me cry, and 2) if I feel that the author has sketched the characters in a way that truly makes them feel like people and not like plot placeholders, or devices to Send A Message (not that books whose primary goal is to send a message are bad or lesser than, just that sometimes it feels artificial). This second point enforces that the author allows me as a reader to see every single inch of the character, their thoughts when they see things that people normally look away from, how they feel about bodies, plants, cars, parks, skin, sex, books, food - everything, no matter whether that feeling is strong or apathetic. This book has done both of those things.

(TW for discussion about suicide forthcoming:)

This is not a book where I can say that the author was trying to do X, Y, and Z. However, through Helen's exploration of her brother's suicide, it presented her thoughts and perceptions of common notions about mental health and suicide. For example, people often think that avoiding the word "suicide" or talking about dying directly will encourage death-seeking behavior, which is not true. In fact, it can encourage people to talk more openly about thoughts that are typically shamed or shied away from due to stigma. Helen also goes in search of the "warning signs" that people hear about that could lead up to a person's death by suicide and questions things about her past and her relationship with her adoptive parents and brother.

In the midst of this, she works as a social worker for underprivileged youth and she uses her work here where she has stretched and exercised her empathy to the fullest, in order to grapple with her thoughts. We see her clients affect her in ways that the author lends as indirect, in that Helen does not connect her X experience to Y event, but that she is reminded viscerally of something that happened in her work that she uses for interpretation, even subconsciously. It takes a brilliant author to discern between that type of mental and emotional work and Patty Yumi Cottrell has absolutely done it here.

Take, for instance:
"[...] to hear human voices and to known and truly feel that there were people below, and at the same time, to not feel compelled to join them, it was a luxurious feeling to cherish, because the exact texture of that feeling happened so few times in my life."

At multiple times in the book, Helen tries to find her place with her sexuality, demonstrating that it's fine to not assign a label to yourself and that it's ok being in a place of exploration and discovery in her 30s. While I understand the need for books where characters explicitly state how they identify, here we see something a little less defined, because she is still searching for a way to define herself, but also because she states that she is fine with being in a state where she doesn't really know. The title of the book is demonstrative of what can happen when people question, and "disrupt the peace" of others' comfort that they have been stewing in for an extended period of time.

This book presents characters as they are - no frills, and therefore largely up to the reader's interpretation. Everyone will be affected (or not) in some way by this book, but what that is, I cannot tell you. While some books' meanings and purpose are clear cut, the beauty of this one is that it is an exercise in, like stated above, sitting in a state of unknown and trying things on, in constant flux and flow of content and discontent. It is an exercise in making connections that you didn't see before, and being comfortable with the fact that absolutely everyone doesn't know absolutely everything.

Media Size : 3.3 MB