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Fellow Mortals

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  289 ratings  ·  64 reviews
An affecting storyabout 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by FSG Originals
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Henry Cooper accidentally starts a fire delivering mail in his neighborhood that leaves houses destroyed and one neighbor dead. The aftermath is Henry trying to make amends for the damage and heartbreak he has caused. I couldn't connect with this story or the characters because it's just so weird.
Mahoney writes beautifully--he's lyrical, but in the least showy, most natural way imaginable. Fellow Mortals is kind and earnest; it feels both refreshing and old-fashioned. I loved the characters and the premise. I'm leaving off the fifth star only because the ending veered into sentimentality, for me, and didn't seem quite as strong as the astounding first three-quarters of the novel.
I am going to have a hard time writing about this book because it has so many Big Ideas brilliantly hidden among the person-sized ideas in Acadia. But I must write, because you are going to be reading about this book in 2013, and I want to be on record so I can say "I told you so!"

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 t
The plot described this book to be about an aftermath of a fire that left a young wife dead. Although it sounded intriguing, it failed to interest me in any level. Besides the opening pages, nothing about this book stood out from how it progressed to random characters that did not contribute to the storyline. I will say that it was one of those books that started off promising but quickly went from promising to forgettable. There were some characters that I liked but I forgot their name, due to ...more
Larry Hoffer
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 min
Kevin Fanning
N.B. Dennis is an old friend and I'm ride or die with him since small times.


SO. Mahoney's first book is a story about neighbors, and how their lives come together and apart after a fire.

The white lower-middle-class suburb Dennis chose as his setting here is the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, and I would have bet money beforehand that Mahoney would be UTTERLY UNABLE to make me feel any emotion whatsoever for this type of setting or the characters who inhabit it.

Luckily we didn't make an o
Sandra Hutchison
FELLOW MORTALS is a keenly-observed portrait of the impact of catastrophe and loss on a very small community. I noticed right away that Mahoney is a talented writer, able to swoop among various well-drawn characters' points of view (even a dog's!) without raising any qualms. For the first third or so of this novel I was admiring the style but a little worried about whether there was really going to be any plot to speak of, but soon after that the pace picked up and the novel became suspenseful e ...more
This was a compelling first novel, with interesting characters, but some of the plot just seemed so contrived. So much so that by the end I was guess what was going to happen, and rolling my eyes when my prediction came true. Dennis Mahoney is certainly a writer to watch and there were some brilliant lines in Fellow Mortals that stayed with me. My actual rating would be more like three and a half stars. A fine debut, but with some of the faults of first novel plotting.
Eric Devine
This was one tender and beautifully written examination of the frailties of human nature. The characters, especially Henry, are vibrant and unique. The setting is not overwhelming, but used appropriately, and the story, of accidents and atonement, is seamless. I live and die by Young Adult literature, so this was a nice departure for me. Mahoney is a voice to watch for, his turns of phrase with this novel are still catching in my mind.
This was a quiet book that slowly took hold of me. It is primarily a character study of the people whose neighborhood and lives are dramatically changed by the reflexive toss of a lit match. The fire-starter, Henry, a USPS delivery person, deeply and sincerely attempts to expiate his secular sin, often despite the anger and rejection with which his acts of atonement are sometimes met. The gloriously flawed humanity of the nine adults who are most affected by the fire is gradually revealed. "Fell ...more
I find it difficult to rate this book. It is the work of an obviously talented writer. The writing is solid. The many characters are varied, well-drawn, and true to life. I would argue that based on the writing alone, this book is 5 stars.

I've been thinking about writing versus storytelling recently. A couple of weeks ago, I read a book that was poorly written, but I loved the stories. Goodreads asks us to rate books on whether we like them, so that's what I did. And that's how 2-star writing be
Emily W
Jan 30, 2014 Emily W rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Both casual readers and English majors
This book is an incredibly human novel. Following the lives of eleven characters after a fire, it examines the reactions and emotions that each person feels after a disaster- some losing everything, and some losing barely anything at all. By the end of the book, each character is as real as a neighbor or a classmate is, and the subtle nuances behind emotions and backstories are never over-looked. The characters are the best aspect of this novel, and if you're looking for a black-tea-and-cloudy-a ...more
Fellow Mortals is like an invitation by author Dennis Mahoney to enter the minds and experience firsthand the innermost thoughts and emotions of a handful of regular people. As the details unfold, the reader, through several narrators, can observe how these individuals react to everyday occurrences and to unexpected tragedy.

In this case, the tragedy has already happened - an accidental fire that literally and figuratively divides a quiet suburban street - and the bulk of the story consists of re
Jaime Boler
“It had been a warm, blustery day in a spring without rain. Henry lit a match. The fire looked clear in the sun and he threw it down, thinking the wind had blown it out and not thinking twice, despite the drought, despite the mulch under the boxwood hedge,” Dennis Mahoney writes in his highly-charged and blistering debut, Fellow Mortals. Henry’s trifling act of pleasure literally ignites a firestorm in a neighborhood, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Accidents happen to all of us; we a
Robbins Library
By throwing a match and a cigar into some dry bushes while on his route, Henry Cooper, a mailman, caused a fire that killed a woman, burned down two houses, and damaged two others. Henry is desperate to do everything he can to help the people whose lives he affected: Sam, now a widow; the Finn sisters, whose house was destroyed; the Carmichaels, a family of four; and couple Billy and Sherri Kane. Some of them want nothing to do with Henry; others accept his help immediately.

Of all of the people
Andrea Mullarkey
While walking his route as a letter carrier, Henry Cooper drops a match igniting a house fire that kills one of the neighbors. Fellow Mortals tells how Henry, his wife Ava, neighbor Peg and Sam, the husband of the dead woman deal with the tragedy each in their distinct way. There are clearly more and less likable characters in the book. Peg with her hysterical need for accountability can hardly compete with guilt-wracked Henry or wounded widower Sam. But what was interesting to me about this gro ...more
The first few pages of this unique novel start off through the eyes of Billy Kane; it wasn't until a few pages in, when Henry Cooper appears on the scene, that I was well and truly drawn in. By throwing a match and a cigar into some dry bushes while on his route, Henry, a mailman, caused a fire that killed a woman, burned down two houses, and damaged two others. Henry is desperate to do everything he can to help the people whose lives he affected: Sam, now a widow; the Finn sisters, whose house ...more
For a first novel, this was incredible. Tightly written with memorable characters, we had the pleasure of hosting Dennis at our book club meeting this month. A very well- read young man, he writes with confidence about the plight of human tragedy and how individuals choose to deal with misfortune and grief. Henry is a mailman who accidentally sets fire to a neighborhood, killing a young wife, burning down two homes, and damaging two others. While this was an accident, Henry is guilt-ridden and w ...more
The story is about a mail carrier (Henry) who accidentally starts a fire that destroys two homes and kills a woman. Henry is a decent man who is overcome with remorse for what he's done and tries to make amends to the victims of the fire. There's nothing he wouldn't do to try to alleviate the suffering he'd caused and at times it was almost too painful and embarrassing to read. His wife was too good to be true. She allowed him to open their home up to two of the people who lost their home--two e ...more
Hold on to your seat belt; this book flies... If you can get past all the details of the first page (I found the first chapter unnecessary, actually) and wait until the fire hits, you are in for a ride. You might stay up all night until you finish this book, relishing the characters, fearful, hopeful, raving mad and, ultimately, glad this author is not all about sex, all the time. Indeed, the people (and dog) in this book are realistic -- they could be your neighbors! -- and filled with characte ...more
Like others, I read a good review in the NYT, but beyond that, there seems to have been no buzz, relatively few reviewers here (very few on Amazon), I haven’t seen it on any year end lists, etc., so I’m assuming readership has been limited as well. That’s a shame, as this book deserves more, and should appeal to a large section of the reading population.

It’s an emotionally moving portrait of the residents of a small neighborhood after an accident leads to tragedy. The characters and their comple
Kathryn Biel
This novel is a well-versed, character driven story about the everyday lives of seven inhabitants of a small cul-de-sac, whose lives are irreparably entwined. Led by protagonist Henry Cooper, the eternally optimistic mailman, Fellow Mortals tracks the lives of the characters following a devastating fire that Henry caused. The stories of the seven individuals continue to develop and evolve, with some rising through resiliency, and while others continue to let the tragedy define them. A compelling ...more
Some roughness at the beginning and a dark near-twist at the end keep the novel from feeling completely organic and well-formed - but for a debut novel, this is quite impressive. It doesn't aspire to much and, as a result, it delivers a magnificent reflection on (to coin a phrase....) our fellow mortals. The struggles, the hopes, the dreams, and the efforts that we all must make every day in order to live with one another. It's funny, it's romantic ( not ooooh, love, flowers, chocolates, etc. ro ...more
Carolyn Fagan
Told from eight different perspectives, this novel about the accidental starting of a fire by the neighborhood's lovable mailman is a study in human emotions. Throughout the novel you come to know each of the characters intimately as if you were their neighbor. The author provides such a sense of place not only with his descriptions of the affected neighborhood, but of the woods to which Sam retreats to in order to deal with his grief over the death of his wife and ultimately the place where Hen ...more
I wasn't so sure, in the first two chapters, if I was going to get into this book. There were too many characters to keep track of, and their names were all such common names: Billy, Sam, Joan, Laura, Pam, Bob, Ethan, Ava, Danny, Sheri, Henry, Nan...

Once I was able to straighten out who everyone was on that little street, the story became one I couldn't put down. That is always an indicator of a good book: I find myself reading it not just during times I normally read, but any spare moment I can
Ich mochte dieses Buch sehr. Zum einen ist es ganz wunderbar geschrieben, die Figuren so liebenswert und glaubwürdig ausgearbeitet, dass sie wie kleine Pop-ups auf den Seiten erscheinen und mich nicht mehr losgelassen haben. Zum anderen mag ich den Grundgedanken, der zwischen den Seiten steckt. Hier wird so schön gezeigt, was passiert, wenn Menschen Fehler machen und sich verantwortlich fühlen, selbst wenn die Konsequenzen in keinem direkten Zusammenhang mit dem anfänglichen Fehler stehen. Was e ...more
I really enjoyed this novel. I will refrain from commenting until my book club meets.

Highly recommended.
Lovely interweaving of lives.
Josh Nix
Beautifully written prose. The characters are drawn very well and the story never goes exactly where you think it will.
My second novel in a row (after Dancing to the Flute) about good folks learning to care for each other, in this case in the wake of tragedy in a white, middle-class neighborhood that could be anywhere that has cold winters. There's plenty of acknowledgment of the characters' suffering, but it's mostly a warm account of caretaking, though with occasional inklings of impending terror. I was especially drawn, too, to the author's effective use of a family dog as just another character who cares for ...more
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Dennis Mahoney lives in upstate New York with his wife, son, and dog.

His new novel, BELL WEATHER, will be published by Henry Holt and Company on July 7, 2015.

Discover the world of BELL WEATHER at

His first novel, FELLOW MORTALS (FSG 2013), was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, as well as a Booklist Top Ten Debut.

He blogs as
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