The disarming title of Murphy’s story of the life of a self exiled Irish priest in the latter decades of the 1800s and the first of the 1900s evokes an irresistible tale of another antipodean adventure. In that one, Captain Lawrence Oates in uttering the memorable “I’m just going outside and may be some time” sacrificed himself to save others on the Robert Falcon Scott Antarctic expedition of 1912.
Murphy’s tale of his granduncle Michael Kickham of Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary, has a similar act of self-sacrifice though one that didn’t lead to his death directly. However if Kickham’s devotion to the Church and his self-imposed exile later in Argentina can be interpreted as a sacrifice, then this man did make the Ultimate sacrifice.
Murphy does a great service to shedding light on Irish emigration to the Antipodes, Argentina and the many nuanced religious and political facets of these huge social events. And we are in his debt for these achievements.
What is this book? A memoir, the bones of a magic realist novel, a social commentary. It is none of these things and all of them. Hopefully there is more to come from this intriguing writer.