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Puff

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Overview

Meet John Gullivan, age thirteen, obsessed with the moles that dot most of his body. Meet his brother Gully, who can't stop laughing at them. Now meet the brothers ten years later, in the middle of the most ferocious blizzard anyone can remember. Set in an Irish working-class suburb of Boston in the 1960s and 1970s, Puff centers on a quest as the soon-to-be-orphaned brothers, posing as rescue personnel, attempt to steer their dilapidated van through insurmountable snow, all to ...

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Puff

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Overview

Meet John Gullivan, age thirteen, obsessed with the moles that dot most of his body. Meet his brother Gully, who can't stop laughing at them. Now meet the brothers ten years later, in the middle of the most ferocious blizzard anyone can remember. Set in an Irish working-class suburb of Boston in the 1960s and 1970s, Puff centers on a quest as the soon-to-be-orphaned brothers, posing as rescue personnel, attempt to steer their dilapidated van through insurmountable snow, all to score a bag of pot.

Trapped in their own ruse and forced to act the part of the saviors they are pretending to be, the brothers run into an endless stream of foes and obstacles: the cops, their childhood priest, a knife-wielding maniac, and the ill all stand in the way of their elusive high. A raucous caper, Puff is as hilarious as it is heartfelt and will resonate with old and young alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Steven Sorrentino
“Unforgettable as the adventures of Butch and Sundance, and more dizzying than a lift from Thelma and Louise.”
Jonathan Tropper
“Flaherty has managed to craft a richly textured story with a wonderfully eccentric and wholly unforgettable family at its center”
Entertainment Weekly
“Flaherty manages to craft a unique story that’s heartfelt in the most unexpected places”
Washington Post
“Bob Flaherty’s smokin’ debut.”
Detroit Free Press
“flat-out hilarious”
Publishers Weekly
In this shaggy-dog '70s coming-of-age tale, two 20-something brothers set out across suburban Boston after a massive snow storm in a valiant attempt to score an "exceedingly fine ounce of Dominican Sin." Despite city orders to stay off the roads, John and Gully Gullivan suit up in fake Red Cross outfits, slap a Red Cross sign on their van and head off. But the hapless duo are soon railroaded into playing Good Samaritan, helping old ladies, delivering insulin and shepherding their fearsome childhood priest on his rounds. Their madcap adventures have a somber edge because their mother is in the hospital in the last stages of cancer; their father died in a freak accident years ago. A series of flashbacks chronicle the soon-to-be-orphans' Irish Catholic childhood, including their taunting of mustached Dally next door, who reappears as a sexy, self-assured college girl and joins them on their snow-day jaunt. The jittery, episodic narrative may throw some readers, and the humor can be haphazard and hyperbolic, but Flaherty's loving rendition of Boston suburbia in the '60s and '70s, complete with homages to comic books, gas-station pastries, Cream and old elementary schools, will charm the Slackers set. Agent, Joy Tutela at the David Black Agency. (Feb. 5) Forecast: Strong local sales are to be expected in Boston and the Northeast, where Flaherty will tour. This would make a nice buddy flick for Boston natives Ben Affleck and brother Casey. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 withpriests 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. Agent: Joy Tutela/David Black Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060751524
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,434,176
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Flaherty was born and raised in Boston and its surrounding towns and now lives in Western Massacusetts with his wife Annemarie, with whom he operates a birthday party business. They have 3 sons. Bob has, at various times, been an actor, a director, a cartoonist, a sportscaster, a talk show host, a tour guide, a storyteller, a disabled bus driver, a master of ceremonies, a hanger of gutters, a singer of national anthems and a baseball coach.

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Table of Contents

1 Mole 1
2 Ten Years Later 12
3 Full 26
4 Oath 39
5 Newsprint 53
6 Rounds 65
7 Puff 79
8 A Turn for the Worse 89
9 Love Is in the Air 99
10 The Trouble with Girls and Boys 113
11 School Crossing 127
12 Fists 142
13 Red 158
14 Vows 173
15 The Red Skull 214
16 Squirrel 237
17 And Leave the Driving to Us 255
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First Chapter

Puff
A Novel

Chapter One

Mole

I am aware of the moles. I am aware of the moles because I am covered with moles. Why, I have no idea. Not one member of my family has even so much as a blackhead, and here's me, a walking sheet of Braille. I am also keenly aware of the poster. The poster of the mole. The poster of the mole I see on the Red Line coming home from Catechism Wednesday nights. The poster that magnifies the mole about 350,000 times, depicting the mole in various stages of metamorphosis, with big serious black letters beneath each stage warning: SEE MOLE. SEE MOLE CHANGE. SEE A DOCTOR. I am now so aware of the moles I can practically see them changing before my eyes. Changing color, changing texture, changing size. Threatening to bubble over in hideous disease. I can feel them incubating on the small of my back like a colony of ticks. I look at them in the morning before school, with mirrors and magnifying glasses, making detailed mental notes of the slightest variations: the deepening crease on the one under my left nipple, the ever-multiplying cluster of them under my armpit, the one three inches from my navel I've never seen before in my life. It's like trying to identify constellations on a chart of the midnight sky. I feel compelled to give them names. I am thirteen years old. In the prime of my life. Moleridden.

Certain I am soon to die, I spend a lot of time praying. On my knees. Beside my Roy Rogers-Dale Evans bedspread in the Wild Bill Hickock-wallpapered room I share with my brother. I pray Our Fathers. I pray Hail Marys. I pray and pray, eyes closed, trying to block out my brother's derisive laughter from the bunk above. "Why dontcha use yer rosary beads, Bishop Sheen?"

"Because they remind me of moles," I say, and that just about kills him. Of course, everything kills Gully. Laugh, laugh, laugh. That's what everybody calls him too. Gully. From about the minute he was born. It's short for Gullivan, which is our last name. Nobody calls me Gully, even though I was born first, by about two whole years. I'm just John, always John, unmistakably John. Who lives not in Boston, mind you, but about 350 feet from the sign that says: ENTERING BOSTON, in a place called Morton, which, by Bostonian decree, is pronounced "Maught'n" by exactly everyone.

Our family prophecy is pretty much spelled out on Dad's panel truck. It has GULLIVAN & SON DISTRIB. painted on both front doors and it has our phone number too. The son in Gullivan & Son is Dad. What he "distribs" are newspapers, everything from the Boston Globe to the Christian Science Monitor to those dinky little AFLCIO rags that always have front-page pictures of fat guys receiving plaques. Trucks start bombarding him with bundles about four in the morning at his little hole-in-the-wall news agency off Dot Ave. He spends the rest of the morning breaking the towering mess into smaller bundles, which he then carts off to storefronts and subway entrances and to the minions of paperboys who work for him. By then the afternoon mess is in.

The son part was painted on while Dad was in the navy, but he assumed the Gullivan role the day he got discharged, which, as luck would have it, was the day Granddad decided he couldn't work anymore on account of his back. (Or on account of his zeal for the sauce, depending on which of my relatives you talk to.) Dad's vision is that one or both of us will one day become the "Son" and he mentions it all the time. That is, when he's not seething. The business he's in goes along smoothly enough until it snows, or rains, or the Heralds are late, or he loses his wire cutters, or the truck blows a head gasket or fifteen of his snotty minions call in sick. Otherwise, he's calm as an egg, smoking Chesterfields til the walls turn brown.

Gully thinks the whole affair's a laugh-a-minute not. And when Gully's not laughing at Dad, he's busy laughing at me. Me and the moles. Then, inevitably, somewhere between ten o'clock at night and two in the morning, the only time when Dad is asleep in his bed, old Schoerner's dogs from the kennel next door start going at it like the Ray Conniff Singers. Dad shrieks behind his closed bedroom door. Ma picks up the phone and starts yelling. And Gully just about dies.

But I pay him no mind. That's all he does half the time anyway. Laughs like the gull he is. I blot it out like a black first baseman at Gaddigan Park. Laugh all he wants.

But then we go to church. I have not had huge success blotting out the laughter in church. Nor, for that matter, in any public, solemn place where people sit expressionless and listen to pins drop. My brother's gut-clutching giggling becomes as contagious to me as mumps. Which is why the two of us are kept far apart when dragged there, sitting at opposite ends of the family pew-three immaculately dressed sisters, two parents and old Aunt Fran between us. But in this dreary and sorrowful place, where white-haired monsignors drone like South Station dispatchers, where old men snore and little kids squirm and organists play selections from Frankenstein, all it takes to get Gully in gear is for the fat old guy in back to start blowing his sausage-sized nose like Tarzan summoning the elephants ...

Puff
A Novel
. Copyright © by Bob Flaherty. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    Fun Read

    I read this book years ago. It will not change your life but it was a fun adventure. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good, quick, fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2006

    inhale, exhale, puff.

    Puff is a unique tale of two brothers in the city of Boston who join forces for a common cause. A great read for anyone who grew up in Bean town are is young at heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2005

    PUFF

    One of the best books I have ever read. Original, a breath of fresh air. Buy it today

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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