Himself by Jess Kidd is a book that made me physically respond to it whether in laughter or tears. It also made me lose sleep as I could not put it down. I stopped reading at 2:30 am and it awoke me 2 hours later. The main character Mahony, a rapscallion, a man haunted by the shades of his past, relies on a bevy of spirits both alive and dead to solve the mystery of his own life's inception. Magic this is; pure craic (good times) as the Irish say. As insightful as Erdrich or even Faulkner yet whimsical, lush and truly earthy--like the Irish landscape itself, golden as well as green. As I read this book I could smell the peat fires and taste the wind that comes off the wild side of the Atlantic.
— Maeve Noonan
" A] fast-paced yarn that nimbly soars above the Irish crime fiction genre Kidd clearly knows very well." --New York Times Book Review
" A] supernaturally skillful debut." --Vanity Fair
"A delicious, gratifying and ageless story." --New York Journal of Books
Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives a tip one night at the bar suggesting that foul play may have led to the disappearance of his mother, he decides to return to the rural Irish village where he was born to learn what really happened twenty-six years earlier.
From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony's presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider's ways cause a stir among the locals, who receive him with a mixture of curiosity (the men), excitement (the women), and suspicion (the pious). It seems that his mother, Orla Sweeney, had left quite an impression on this little town--dearly beloved to some, a scourge and a menace to others. But who would have had reason to get rid of her for good?
Determined to find answers, Mahony solicits the help of brash pot-stirrer and retired actress Mrs. Cauley, and the two concoct an ingenious plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, some from beyond the grave. What begins as a personal mission gradually becomes a quiet revolution: a young man and his town uniting against corruption of power, against those who seek to freeze their small worlds in time, to quash the sinister tides of progress and modernity come hell or high water. But what those people seem to forget is that Mahony has the dead on his side....
Centering on a small town rife with secrets and propelled by a twisting-and-turning plot, Himself
is a gem of a book, a darkly comic mystery, and a beautiful tribute to the magic of language, legacy, and storytelling.