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Fellow Mortals: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374154066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374154066
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Carefully yet implacably drawing upon the theme that we are all connected, Mahoney’s quietly powerful debut snapshots the lives of suburban neighbors who become bound to one another through an almost unbearably banal yet utterly real tragedy. Henry Cooper is a mail carrier, husband, and very decent guy when he one day lights up his cigar while on his route and tosses the match into the gutter in the sort of careless gesture anyone might make. This gesture, however, burns down a house and kills someone else’s wife, touching off an even darker firestorm of events for the neighborhood’s residents. The shell-shocked widower, Sam Bailey, retreats into the woods. Henry’s wife, Ava, holds firm to her love for her husband as she soldiers on. High-powered Peg sanctimoniously blames Henry and refuses his offers of atonement. Billy and his wife, Sheri, continue to destroy their own lives as they observe their street’s meltdown. As the characters warily orbit one another, hidden desperation, longings, and demons rear up and spark further tragedy. With the barest glimmer of hope to buoy the calamities of his deeply earnest, lyrical story, Mahoney can share shelf space with Dave Eggers and Stewart O’Nan. --Julie Trevelyan

Review

"Quietly powerful.... With the barest glimmer of hope to buoy the calamities of his deeply earnest, lyrical story, Mahoney can share shelf space with Dave Eggers and Stewart O'Nan." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"A thoughtful examination on how tragedy can change different people in different ways....It also reveals how we often avoid confronting the fear and pain that manifests in our thoughts." -- Zyzzyva

"Fellow Mortals, while full of vivid interactions, is perhaps most moving in its subtle depiction of people alone, trying to find ordinary meaning amid disarray.... [It] will stay with me for its watchful portrait of people, imperfect in life as in art, trying to find goodness in one another and themselves." -- The New York Times

"A small, tight, deftly rendered tale.... Mahoney has crafted a complete universe populated by people who feel real, living lives that feel real." -- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Every character in this tightly knit debut novel has a choice to make in how to handle the aftermath of the tragedy. What each one does affects the rest, bringing home the truth that 'you're not alone, even when you are.'" -- The Plain Dealer

“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


More About the Author

Dennis Mahoney lives in upstate New York with his wife, son, and dog. His first novel, FELLOW MORTALS, was a Booklist Top Ten Debut in 2013. He can be found online at AuthorDennisMahoney.com and @Giganticide.

Customer Reviews

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An absolute page turner!
Christie
The plot at times seemed a bit over the top, but the characters carry it so well that it hardly matters.
Curmudgeonly Doc
I recommend this book for you, your friends, and family.
Alex McTighe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Kotecki on February 5, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book has so many Big Ideas brilliantly hidden among the person-sized ideas in Acadia. Mahoney has a great American voice - his writing nods to a number of great American authors of the last century, and he provides a refreshing course correction by sidestepping the self-referential, irony-laden manner that has crept into the modern novel. This is solid writing made extraordinary by fresh insight and prose that rises to the level of poetry at times.

Fellow Mortals is the story of a handful of people who find themselves in struggles - some large, some small - with fate, destiny, serendipity, every word we use today when we would have said "the gods" in earlier times. And that concept resonates throughout with subtle but brilliant references to the unfortunate humans in mythology who displeased the gods and suffered their punishments.

A number of characters and plotlines interweave, providing kaleidoscopic impressions of the themes of marriage, rebuilding after loss, striking the balance between jaded pessimism and blind optimism, and how doing the right thing is no guarantee of the right outcomes. The brilliant part is that none of these themes are presented explicitly - they all emerge organically out of the experiences of a group of people after a fire in a small neighborhood. There is enough suspense to pull the reader forward, but at every point there are incredible vistas on the human experience.

There's an amazing balance here between naturalism and idealism, with these characters feeling both real and dramatic, and I have no idea how Mahoney did it. And even the secondary characters have a marvelous presence - I fell deeply for one in particular, and I will only tell you that the character who finishes the book is not only the one you least expect, but ultimately the perfect choice. I was engaged throughout the novel, but unprepared for the catharsis - in the truest, Greekest sense of the word - at the end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hoffer on February 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

This is a book whose beauty and power crept up on me and took me by surprise. And I stumbled onto it while browsing in an actual bookstore, so I hope they don't all close, because how else am I going to find these gems?

Henry Cooper is a friendly mailman, always quick to lend a smile, even a hand. One beautiful afternoon while on his mail route on Arcadia Street, he lights a cigar (forbidden by his wife), and absentmindedly tosses his match to the ground. In just a few minutes, that careless action lights several houses on fire, damaging the homes of people he has come to know on his route. Henry actually saves some people from the fire, but that doesn't lessen the impact of what he has done, as a young wife is killed.

While on suspension from his job awaiting the results of an investigation, Henry wants nothing more than to help those whose lives he has affected. He and his devoted wife, Ava, take in elderly sisters Joan and Nan Finn, while they try to decide what to do next. While he is snubbed by some families, the one person he tries reaching out to most of all is sculptor Sam Bailey, whose wife, Laura, died in the fire. Sam is practically rudderless and unsure of what to do with his days, but he is revived by his work, sculpting mysterious figures from the trees near his house. Sam doesn't know how to react to Henry--he wants to be angry and hurt, even vengeful, but Henry's affability and his need to make Sam feel like he belongs wears him down.

Fellow Mortals is both a story about many different kinds of relationships as well as how people deal with the aftermath of a crisis. Ava is frustrated by Henry's openness and need to help those affected by the fire, but most of all, she wants to protect him from himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Appliance Queen on September 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Our story is about human nature. A mailman covertly smoking on his route starts a blaze that kills a woman, burns down 2 houses, damages others, and disrupts the life of everyone on the block. Henry is decent, caring, happily married, and being slowly destroyed by guilt. He wants to help the people he caused hurt to. But - will they let him?

No tidy endings here, and for that, I was thankful. Too many authors deliver a happy ending, trying to keep their readers happy. I was in the woods building, I was helping with puzzles. I felt their pain and their love. I cried, talked back, and laughed out loud a few times.

I'm surprised more readers haven't discovered this gem of a book. Dennis Mahoney has a rare gift and I look forward to more from him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on July 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This compelling and utterly believable debut novel traces the consequences of a simple, single mistake, a discarded match that ignites a neighborhood conflagration resulting in the death of a young woman, the destruction of several homes, and the resulting desecration of the human personality unforeseen loss engenders. As well, the author gives deserved attention to the bravery and compassion of those whose magnanimity and poise permit them to transcend the loss of property and life, who struggle to provide meaning to their lives, scorched and permanently disfigured by the fire. Mahoney has much to teach us about the value of life and the importance of accepting limitations, especially those unfairly wrought in our lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles P. Miller on April 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
I read a review in the NY Times and decided to read this book. I love it; the characters and story are quite engaging. I understand this is a first novel. It's a very a good start! Living with the folks (and the dog) in this book has been well worth the time.
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