‘He watched the people walk by, studying their faces. As they poured by on the busy street he saw the whole gamut of human emotion. It was visible on faces of every age, and race and was specific to no gender. A river of people, carrying a river of emotion, driven by a great intangible force. It scared him a little.’

Me, Myself and Them by debut author Dan Mooney is many things. It is a tough read. It is incredibly sad. It is a tearjerker. Yet in parts, the laughs reminded me of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. Overall, it can be summed up as a stunningly original novel that uniquely deals with themes such as loss, friendship and mental health.

The novel centres around Denis Murphy and ‘his foibles.’ Denis plans his day to the minute and refuses to engage with anyone other than his two best friends and his mother. This keeps human contact down to the bare minimum. ‘The battle for conversation is fought in trenches of politeness and references to the weather.’ Denis only knows happiness when he is rigidly following a routine, cleaning up after his unruly housemates or surrounded by even numbers.

‘Attention to detail is something that the normal person aspires to, but as far as Denis Murphy was concerned; if you don’t iron your socks, you’re living a lie, hiding your gruesome lack of concern from the world.’

Did I mention his housemates? As Denis himself says, ‘home is where the hell is.’ This is because he secretly lives with an intimidating clown, an overtly feminine feline, a zombie professor and a mute furball called Deano. The novel could have gotten very weird here but somehow Mooney makes it work. He even makes it believable. He does this by turning the fish out of water technique on its head. Denis is clearly a fish drowning in his own insanity yet unable to see the water all around him.

You would think that this novel would have too much going on to work but Mooney keeps the story going with the gentlest of touches. As we read on, the author begins to drip feed the reader with details of a tragic accident. These scenes are the novel’s true heart and soul and I was greatly impressed with how they were handled.

The shining light of the novel are Denis’ friends and his ex-girlfriend Rebecca who try to help Denis become himself again. Like any battle with mental illness, the events are not all plain sailing. There are many setbacks along the way as Denis fights to conceal the true nature of his thoughts and we are kept guessing right up to the end. These friends steal the show with their patience and dedicated loyalty to Denis.

Mental health is the hardest of issues to write about compassionately but Mooney nails it here using the most unexpected of devices. To conclude, I can’t speak highly enough of this novel. You are just going to have to read it yourself and marvel at it’s brilliant ingenuity.

“I think if you examine yourself very carefully you’ll know why, but then, you’ve never been overly fond of introspection have you? It hurts, so you don’t do it. Eventually you’re going to have to. It shows you what you’re worth to yourself.”

Would I recommend this book to a friend?

Yes, but like I said above this is not an easy read. If you have a long weekend or a summer holiday ahead, I would recommend that you plough into this one to totally immerse yourself in Denis Murphy’s world. It is not a pleasant journey, but it is a necessary one.

Afterthoughts

  • For an insightful and beautifully honest interview with Dan Mooney click here.
  • Dan Mooney moonlights as an Air Traffic Controller when he’s not writing!
  • I read this book on the recommendation of Rick O’Shea. He always has great ideas for reads and I strongly suggest that you check out his website from time to time.