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by Jess Kidd

Himself-book-coverMahoney is enjoying a pint when Father McNamara tracks him down.

The late Sister Veronica, who made Mahoney’s childhood in St. Anthony’s Orphanage miserable, has left him something.
It’s something she always denied existed: a message in the basket that held Mahoney when he was abandoned on the orphanage steps.
Now Father McNamara hands over an envelope marked “For when the child is grown.”
Inside is a photograph of a girl with a half smile holding a bundle. On the back of the photo, written in “good solid school teacherly hand,” is a message stating that Mahoney was born Francis Sweeney; his mother was named Orla and that he was from Mulderrig, County Mayo.
The message continues, “For your information she was the curse of the town, so they took her from you. They all lie, so watch yourself, and know that your mammy loved you.”

So, in the spring of 1976, he steps off the bus and neither he nor Mulderrig are ever the same after.

Mahoney is young, cocky, handsome and charismatic. At the pub, they quickly buy him rounds. Married women watch him, twisting their wedding bands and wondering.

Nobody admits to knowing what happened to Orla Sweeney. Some swear they saw her get on the bus back in 1950. Others talk of her poverty and family darkened by the evils of drink. Still others describe her as a woman of low morals and unbounded willfulness.

What the reader knows from the prologue is that Orla Sweeney was brutally and coldly murdered. While the townspeople cluck and judge Orla’s behavior, they conveniently close their eyes to the fact that a murderer sits among them.

Author Jess Kidd leads readers forward and backward in time, unveiling Mulderrig’s history and an eccentric cast of characters bit by bit. Weaving in and around the living are the ghosts of the dead, whom Mahoney can see and communicate with. Vague, they are no more helpful than the living in Mahoney’s quest to learn his mother’s fate. Obliquely, however, they reveal the hidden natures of the living.

Charming and horrifying, magical and criminal, funny and sad, Kidd has created an enjoyable tale of an Irish village, an old crime and life beginning again impossibly hopefully.

About the Author: Jess Kidd (1973 – )

HIMSELF was author Jess Kidd’s first book, published by Canongate in October 2016. It was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016.

It was followed by MR. FLOOD’S LAST RESORT, winner of the 2016 Costa Short Story Award in 2018 and shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019.  Her third book, THINGS IN JARS, came out in 2019.

She is currently working on a chIldren’s book EVERYDAY MAGIC.

As a writer, Kidd describes herself as a fan of “genre-splicing.”

Although her family came from County Mayo, Jess was raised in London. Her mother would routinely drag her to funerals and wakes when she was young, nurturing her taste for the macabre.

She dropped out of college to give birth to her daughter in 1997. She juggled a variety of day jobs with single motherhood. She eventually acquired a bachelor’s degree through the Open University and was awarded a bursary to study for a master’s and the doctorate degree in creative writing at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham. The bursary allowed  her the financial freedom to be more experimental in her writing.


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