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Himself: A Novel by Jess Kidd

Himself: A Novel

by Jess Kidd

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8315145,226 (3.98)1



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4.5 Magical and delightful, was not at all ready to leave this small Irish town nor these wonderful characters. Mahoney, raised in an orphanage, come to Murdering to uncover the truth about the young mother he never knew. He creates quite a stir with his Byronic good looks, sets hearts a quivering, but not all because many in this place are holding secrets and one is a murderer. He meets some amazing characters, willing to help him with his quest: the old Mrs., Cauley, who was quite a stage sensation in her youth and still has vestiges of her bold character, Bridget Doosey, who has talents that are unseen, and the intrepid Shauna, a young women who falls hard to Mahoney.

Magical realism, humor, the paranormal all combine in this enchanting story. Mahoney has an unforeseen talent, like his mother before him, he can see and talk to ghosts, and his return stirs all the town's residents, living and dead. So much humor, I laughed continuously, smiled often. Mrs. Cauley owes a debt of gratitude to Jane Austen's Collected Works, War and Peace and a few other large tomes, after all books do save lives. There is one part of only a few paragraphs that is quite unsavory, concerning a dog and some violence because as I said there is a murderer about and he is bent at not having his secret uncovered.

More plot oriented than Lincoln in the Bardo, but if you enjoyed that one you will probably love this one. ( )
  Beamis12 | Apr 28, 2017 |
**This book was reviewed for Port Jericho via Netgalley**

Kidd’s Himself tells the tale of Mahoney, an orphan come from Dublin to the provincial village of Mulderrig in search of his past and the truth of his mother's apparent abandonment of him. Mulderrig is a quiet town, harbouring hidden secrets, secrets ready to burst forth and reshape boundaries of mind, heart, and soul. In his quest for the truth, Mahoney acquires a friend and helpmate in the form of Mrs Cauley, an elderly actress who has retired in Mulderrig.

Kidd presents an eccentric cast, and a complex storyline. There is a certain charming mysticism and elements of the supernatural woven throughout. Mahoney himself is gifted with seeing the dead, who respond to his presence by waking more fully. These ghosts, and other spirits of the land help if and when they may.

This story has such beautiful language, it's enough to bring tears to your eyes at times. As so:

'Birds spin through the glass air to land on washing lines and survey lawns sprinkled with breakfast crusts.’

The lyrical writing reminded me of the a version of the legend of Cuchulainn I read recently. It is ironic to me that much later, towards the end of the story, mention is made of just this legend.There are inklings of Mahoney as a modern culture hero. He has come to Mulderrig to shake things up, bringing with him new ways of thinking and being. When he leaves, this sleepy little town will not be the same. Mahoney calls to mind Kvothe, from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingbreaker series.

I cried at the end, once the full truth is known. I think I cried most for the collie, whose innocent trust and loyalty is so horribly betrayed. This is a book I am proud to have on my bookshelves, and will certainly read over and over again.

🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻 If you like Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingbreaker series, or Tiffany McDaniels’ The Summer That Melted Everything, you will enjoy Kidd’s richly complex Himself. ( )
  PardaMustang | Apr 8, 2017 |
Set mostly in 1976 in a small village in Mayo, Himself tells the story of twenty-six-year-old Mahoney. Left in a Dublin orphanage as a baby, and possessing only a photograph of his teen-aged mother holding his infant self (with a few written details on the back), Mahony has determined he will go to Mulverrig, the place of his birth, to find out what happened to his mother. Mahony has an unusual gift, shared--to some degree--by others in the village: he, like his mother before him, can see ghosts. This special ability will prove to be useful in his quest to uncover his origins.

Once in Mulverrig, Mahoney quickly discovers that his mother, Orla, was the town harlot. This fact--along with supernatural abilities apparently linking her with the devil--caused Mulverrig to turn against her. Some folk say she was seen leaving town with her baby and a suitcase in May, 1950. Others, though, are sure she came to a violent end.

Mahoney teams up with an elderly actress, Mrs. Cauley, known for electrifying and unsettling the village with her yearly dramatic productions, and Bridget Doosey, a slovenly cat hoarder of indeterminate age. The three scheme, mostly at Rathmore House, a previously respectable hotel run by Shauna Burke (who will become Mahony's love interest). They place themselves in considerable danger but eventually get to the bottom of what happened to Orla Sweeney.

Kidd's murder mystery detailing the efforts of the three unlikely detectives is a jokey, rollicking romp. Himself is certainly an assured, and some would say "charming" debut. I don't know if it was due to the disconnect between the subject matter (small-town superstition and intolerance coupled with grisly murder(s)) and the light, playful tone (the book is written in almost cliche Irish idiom), but I just didn't enjoy the novel.

Kidd's supple prose and well-developed plot should be enough to earn the book a rating of four stars. For me, though, those strengths just weren't enough. In the end, I thought Himself was merely okay. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Apr 4, 2017 |
I received a free advance review e-copy of this book and have chosen of my own free will to post a review. A young man was left on the doorstep of an orphanage as an infant and decides to return to his roots to see what he can find out about his mother, Orla Sweeney. He is a handsome, and charismatic young Irishman who sees dead people. This book is full of humor, magic, secrets, murder, and some very dark moments. Mulderegg is a small Irish village with eccentric and quirky residents. Jess Kidd is a true storyteller who has a way with words and Irish humor. This is a very well written book with an engaging plot as the young man seeks to uncover the truth about his mother’s disappearance and his abandonment. The author keeps the reader guessing throughout the book as to who’s the daddy, what really happened to Orla, and whodunit. This was a fun and enjoyable book with some very interesting and eccentric characters and well worth the read. I look forward to reading more from Jess Kidd in the future. ( )
  iadam | Apr 3, 2017 |
Himself by Jess Kidd is a murder mystery couched in the magic of Irish folklore. The book sets up the folklore and the background beautifully. The beginning is colorful and atmospheric. However, the pace is slow, and the characters, plot or setting don't really build. The plot ends up a little scattered and falls a little short of the build up. I do love the premise and setting and enjoy the descriptive writing.

Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2017/04/himself.htm

Reviewed for NetGalley ( )
1 vote njmom3 | Apr 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Diabolical deeds, ferociously kept secrets, black humour and magical realism abound in Jess Kidd’s richly textured, thronging debut. At its dark heart is the tale of a long-ago murder in a remote coastal village in the west of Ireland, and the young man who, nearly 30 years later, seeks to avenge it..Kidd has produced a formidable entertainment, if frantically overcrammed with incident, characters, and most confusingly, genres. Himself is both noirish crime thriller and rollicking comedy, the latter aspect providing light relief from the breathtaking violence of the many murders... These cataclysms are perhaps too plentiful and too fantastical for one novel. Kidd has imagination to die for and a real command of plot and character; if she can trim the excess and ration the energy, her next book should be very fine indeed.
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Book description
"That's my story. I have no other."

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 her disappearance, 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 Mulderigg, 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 together they 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 quash the 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 sparkling tribute to the magic of storytelling.

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"Having been abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as an infant, lovable car thief and Dublin charmer Mahony assumed all his life that his mother had simply given him up. But when he receives an anonymous note suggesting that foul play may have led to his mother's disappearance, he sees only one option: to return to the rural Irish village where he was born and find out what really happened twenty-six years ago. From the moment he sets foot in Mulderrig, Mahony's presence turns the village upside down. His uncannily familiar face and outsider ways cause a stir amongst the locals, who receive him with a mixture of excitement (the women), curiosity (the men) and suspicion (the pious). Determined to uncover the truth about what happened to his mother, Mahony solicits the help of brash anarchist and retired theater actress Mrs. Cauley. Together, this improbable duo concoct an ingenious plan to get the town talking, aided and abetted by a cast of eccentric characters, both living and dead. Because in Mulderrig, ghosts can be just as chatty and opinionated as the town's flesh and blood residents. Mahony's investigation incurs the wrath of sanctimonious Father Quinn and the Widow Farelly, provokes letter bombs and poisoned scones, and culminates in a riotous production of the most controversial play in Irish history. Himself is a simmering mixture - a blend of the natural everyday and the supernatural, folklore and mystery, and a healthy dose of quintessentially Irish humor. The result is a darkly comic crime story in the tradition of a classic Irish trickster tale, complete with a twisting and turning plot, a small-town rife with secrets and an infectious love of language and storytelling that is a hallmark of the finest Irish writers"--… (more)

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