Farrar Straus Giroux, Paperback, 9780374154066, 280pp.
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
An affecting story about how relationships are built and burned by desperate needs and obligations
When Henry Cooper sets out on his mail route on Arcadia Street one crisp spring morning, he has no idea that his world is about to change. He is simply enjoying the sunshine as he lights up a cigar and tosses the match to the ground, entirely unaware that he has just started a fire that will destroy a neighborhood and kill a young wife.
Even though the fire has been put out, it has ignited a lurking menace in an otherwise apparently peaceful suburb. In "Fellow Mortals," Dennis Mahoney depicts the fire's aftermath in the lives of its survivors. There's Henry's wife, Ava, devoted to her husband but yearning to recover a simpler time in their marriage. There's the angry neighbor, Peg, who wants Henry to pay for what he's done, no matter the cost which ends up being grave. And then there's Sam Bailey, the sculptor who lost his wife in the fire and has retreated to the woods to carve mysterious figures out of trees. As Sam struggles to overcome his anger and loss, Henry becomes the focal point of deepening loyalties and resentments, leaving them all vulnerable to hidden dangers and reliant on the bonds that have emerged, unexpectedly, from tragedy.
With sparse and handsome prose reminiscent of Raymond Carver and early Stewart O'Nan, Mahoney's probing first novel charts the fall of a man who has spent his life working to be decent and shows us a community trying desperately to hold itself together.
“Mahoney weaves together the patterns of a community (‘You’re not alone, even when you are’) and depicts the aftermath of a catastrophe with an unwavering eye. A strong debut reminiscent of the novels of Stewart O’Nan.” —Publishers Weekly
“As one character in Fellow Mortals explains of another, ‘He needs to feel alive, even if it hurts.’ In this heartfelt debut, Dennis Mahoney shows great care and compassion for its people, all of whom are raw and vulnerable in the wake of a neighborhood tragedy.” —STEWART O’NAN
“Dennis Mahoney mines the space between atonement and forgiveness in this unforgettable novel about a neighborhood cast adrift. Crisp and riveting, poignant and wise, Fellow Mortals crackles with humanity, with all its messy complexity. The characters of Arcadia Street will stay with me for a long time. Mahoney is an exciting new literary voice.” —RAE MEADOWS, author of Mercy Train
“Dennis Mahoney writes with equal wisdom about the human inclination toward kindness and about the harm we cannot help inflicting along the way. In this fine novel of fellowship, nothing comes easily and no one—no one—is without grace.” —LEAH HAGER COHEN, author of The Grief of Others and House Lights
“A cautionary tale about neighborhood life that’s candid, elegant, and very sympathetic. I don’t know if I should introduce myself to the family across the street, or buy new locks and a gun.” —ROSECRANS BALDWIN, author of Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There
“Mahoney’s characters, at once unique and utterly relatable, will stay with you forever. His is the kind of writing that makes me want to be a better writer.” —ZOE FISHMAN, author of Saving Ruth and Balancing Acts