A funny, well-crafted debut tale of sin, redemption, religious yearning, yearning of every other kind, and righteous bud.
In a hero quest to do Joseph Campbell proud, Irish-American twentysomething stoners answer a challenge. The worst winter storm to hit in years descends on Boston, but Gully Gullivan, slacker and schemer extraordinaire, has other things on his mind: “I just got off the phone with Worms Faulkner,” he announces to brother John, our narrator, “who, it may interest you to know, has available one exceedingly fine ounce of Dominican Sin, and if we can get ourselves there by four, it’s ours.” Alas, Worms lives in Braintree, and between the boys and Braintree lies a perilous jungle of cops, fallen power lines, icy roads, and friends, relatives and others needing favors, among other obstacles. Flaherty keeps the chronology imprecise (we can guess it’s the late 1970s from the soundtrack in the lads’ van, but they’re backdated refugees from the decade before) and the dialogue and props exquisitely right on; anyone of a certain age who’s ever driven a car on fumes will appreciate his description of “the needle tap-tap-tapping into the E zone; the red FUEL light flashing like ship-to-shore. But, dammit, you’d get caught up in things. The home half of the seventh, for instance, or, in our case, the last five tracks of Quadrophenia.” Which is just so. The brothers’ ingenious and utterly illegal solution to the problem of traversing wintry Massachusetts sets the real hero’s quest in motion, and it involves all manner of unexpected twists and turns and picaresque moments of religious and ethnic consciousness-raising, fumbling encounters with groovy chicks, on-the-road meetings with priests and janitors and cops and suchlike things, including some genuine heroics on the boys’ part, all capped off with some suitably stoned fallen-Catholic ponderings on the meaning of it all: “The whole of is—nothing more than scheming apes with addresses—are worth saving? . . . What the hell does Jesus see in us?”
A charming first effort, true and amusing and serious all at once.