Fellow Mortals

Dennis Mahoney, Author
Dennis Mahoney. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-15406-6
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Mahoney’s debut novel explores the aftereffects of a devastating fire on a neighborhood and community. Walking down Arcadia Street on his route, mailman Henry Cooper lights a cigar and tosses away the match, accidentally sparking a conflagration that kills one person, destroys two houses, and melts the siding off two more. Distraught, Henry attempts to make amends with his neighbors—among them, two elderly sisters whose house is destroyed and whom he takes into his own home. With Sam Bailey, whose wife Laura was killed in the fire, Henry has more trouble. Sam initially rebuffs Henry’s attempts, but eventually accepts Henry’s help building a cabin in the woods near the site of his burned-down house. Then there’s Billy Kane, whose wife has tired of his abuse and left him. Bereft, Billy spirals downward, culminating in a frightening Thanksgiving Day attack on Henry’s wife, Ava, at Sam’s cabin. 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. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Feb.)
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