First-time novelist Farrelly spins a funny, touching tale about coming-of-age in the 1970's: a sensitive, working-class kid from Pawtucket discovers his love for his gruff father in the cold confines of a fancy, Connecticut prep school. Teen-age Timothy Dunphy can't forget the day his old man broke the neck of the family dog, Clops, because the dog killed one too many cats. That night, ""Dunph"" hitchhiked miles into the country with the corpse, so he could tell his grief-stricken little brother, Jackie, that Clops went to live with a farmer. He gets back to Pawtucket the next day, only to team that Jackie is paralyzed--his neck snapped in a fall from a powerline. Soon after, Dunph gets packed off to a fancy Connecticut prep school (thanks to a mafioso pal of his Italiano father). There, Dunph struggles to adjust to the vindictive ways of his moneyed schoolmates. His tough, funny exterior cracks, however, when he learns that his best hometown friend, Mousey Town, has died in a car wreck. At first, Dunph blames his blunt, tough father for all the pain and abandonment he has suffered in his life (behind everything else, his unstable mother committed suicide when he was a boy). Slowly, however, he gets glimpses of his father as a vulnerable man, trying to handle life's impersonal betrayals in his rough, working-class way. In the end, Dunph admits that he loves his old man, and gives up his drugs and his cynicism to go back home. Farrelly's writing is spare, visual, hilariously on the money; not surprising since he is a successful screenwriter. And he is willing to take the risk of tenderness--though a punchline about choosing love and wholeness over all that is pretentious and self-serving. A warm, rewarding tale that beats all the adolescent nihilism durrently in vogue, hands down.