Fellow Mortals by Dennis Mahoney

Fellow Mortals is my friend Dennis Mahoney‘s first novel, and it’s one of Booklists Top Ten First Novels of 2013. Go Dennis!

A few of my favorite parts:

Eventually it struck him: she was out there, right that minute, in a coffin underground less than twenty minutes from the motel, her clothes and hair all perfectly arranged and it was possible — unthinkable but possible — to see her face and even hold her hand.

Nan and Ava bristled from the start. They’re electrically polite, vying for dominion, Nan asserting her rights within the boundaries of decorum, Ava mastering her home with limits and concessions. This morning they offered each other first use of the washing machine with so much crackling generosity that Wing tucked tail and hid beneath a table.

The oven smells warm; it makes the kitchen like a bedroom. Evaporated milk cans open with a kiss. There’s a little spot of pumpkin at the button of her cuff and a faint taste of flour when he pecks her on the neck.

“I never would have guessed,” he said. “You seem so fertile.”
“I have breeding hips.”
He laughs and says, “That isn’t what I meant.”
She puts a hand to her stomach, following a breath, picturing her body full of daffodils and fruit.

… the light looks pale — more factual than warm.”


phoebe – an American tyrant flycatcher with mainly gray-brown or blackish plumage.
iliac crest – The upper edge of the pelvic bone
scud – move fast in a straight line because or as if driven by the wind.
sough – a moaning, whistling, or rushing sound as made by the wind in the trees or the sea.
chiminea – an earthenware outdoor fireplace shaped like a light bulb, with the bulbous end housing the fire and typically supported by a wrought-iron stand.

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