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February 28, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

In the aftermath of a paralyzing Boston blizzard, John Gullivan and his brother set out to score ”one exceedingly fine ounce of Dominican” (marijuana, dude), only to find themselves waylaid by circumstance for 288 careening pages. From a premise that verges on cliché, Flaherty manages to craft a unique story that’s heartfelt in the most unexpected places — on the gymnastic mats of a deserted elementary school gym, for example, or in the cab of a decrepit newspaper delivery van as it drives away from the spot where an unconscious, formerly knife-wielding maniac has been dumped in the snow. Musings on childhood, Catholicism, family, and fate fill this flawed but obsessively good-intentioned first novel and, as John would say, that’s something.

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