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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 brother s few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor, Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive.
A bleakly comic tour de force that s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, and viscerally unsettling, this debut novel has shades of Bernhard, Beckett and Bowlesand it announces the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-21
- Reviewer: Staff
In Cottrells stellar debut novel, 32-year-old Helen is in her Manhattan apartment when she receives a call that her adoptive brother has killed himself. Helen, who like her brother is Korean and was adopted by the same white Milwaukee couple, is shaken by the news and books a one-way ticket to Milwaukee to find out what happened. But what starts as a detectives hunt for clues soon becomes Helens confrontation of her own place in the worldwhy shes estranged from her past (she hasnt seen her adoptive parents in five years), and what she is doing with her life as a counselor for troubled youth. Finally, Helen comes to terms with her adoptive brothers suicide. The real attraction here is Helen: her perspective ranges from sharp (New York is a city so rich it funds poetry) to askew (People who call themselves photographers are fake... the real charlatans of our time. Behind a photo is a perfectly fake person, scrubbed of all flaws, dead inside) to unhinged (her adoptive parents grieving takes the physical form of a middle-aged European man who walks around the house and helps himself to pizza). Cottrell gives Helen the impossible task of understanding what would drive another person to suicide, and the result is complex and mysterious, yet, in the end, deeply human and empathetic. Agent: Kate Johnson, Wolf Literary. (Mar.)