Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Fellow Mortals"

Dennis Mahoney lives in upstate New York.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Fellow Mortals, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Fellow Mortals is surprisingly representative of the whole novel. It's a scene featuring my hero, Henry Cooper, and his wife Ava having a bedroom argument. The book is about Henry, a mailman who accidentally sets fire to several houses on his route. Henry, a good-hearted optimist, is wracked with guilt and tries to make amends with the victims, especially a man named Sam whose wife died in the fire.

The page 69 scene occurs shortly after Henry's first visit to Sam, which was understandably tense and even dangerous. Henry, who has a heart condition, insisted on helping Sam with some grueling physical labor. When Ava learns that Henry literally risked his life -- it won't be the last time -- she's caught between anger at his recklessness and loving appreciation of his desire, and need, to help the people he's hurt.

So they argue about this, but it's a loving argument, with Henry apologetic (and not truly willing to give up helping) and Ava stern (but pitying and forgiving). This particular page features a lot of what made the characters and story so compelling to write about. There's open conflict, both muddied and clarified by secret conflict. There's a moment of marriage that feels true to me, because of its shorthand communication, layered emotion, and air of private space. I feel like a reader would understand that this is a warm, healthy relationship even in the middle of an argument. And Ava's mixture of depression and hope -- of weariness from so much difficulty, combined with a clear vision of the simpler life she's longing for -- makes the second half of the page a good example of the book's main colors. What if you lost everything? What if you tried to rebuild?

It's certainly not my favorite page of the book, but it does provide a good window.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Mahoney's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue