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Himself : a novel
2017
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Summary
"[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.
Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Mahony spent most of his life believing that his mother abandoned him at an orphanage. In his mid-20s, he learns that she was murdered, so he returns to the town of his birth to uncover the truth. Aided by the wealthy and wily Mrs. Cauley, her sidekick Bridget Doosey, and his ability to see ghosts, Mahony shakes things up and slowly unravels the dark secrets of a small Irish town. Set mostly in the 1970s, the novel also moves to the 1940s and 1950s to focus on the events of the protagonist's birth and his mother's murder. Superstition and magical realism permeate the book, and nature lends a hand in hiding and revealing secrets. Rich in characterization, setting, and salty dialogue, this mystery and journey of self-discovery features some sex and violence but nothing too extreme. Teens will find the quaint town of Mulderrig and its inhabitants fascinating and fearsome. VERDICT A charming addition for strong readers who enjoy well-drawn characters and stories with a hint of magic.-Tamara Saarinen, Gig Harbor Library, WA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
In 1976, handsome, charismatic Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a village like no other, searching for clues about his mother, Orla Sweeney. Did she run away after abandoning him at an orphanage in 1950, or did she meet a worse fate? Mahony fears the latter and finds an ally in Mrs. Cauley, a twisted old woman who rises to any challenge. Not unlike Hamlet, the two stage a play in hopes of flushing out Orla's murderer. Every page of Kidd's who-done-it novel is filled with magic, spirit, peppery characters, and ghosts of the village dead, including their pets, who are visible only to some. A wellspring emerges in a priest's house, ushering in a chorus of frogs. Sandwiches curl up and die, trees hold their own counsel, and a swarm of bullet-headed bees makes an appearance. Yet there is murder, too. Kidd mixes the darkest capacities of these villagers with carefully observed whimsy and fantasy. Readers who enjoy a dollop of whiskey in their tea will feel right at home in Mulderrig.--Dziuban, Emily Copyright 2017 Booklist
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