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Handling Sin

Handling Sin

4.6 25
by Michael Malone

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On the Ides of March, our hero, Raleigh Whittier Hayes (forgetful husband, baffled father, prosperous insurance agent, and leading citizen of Thermopylae, North Carolina), learns that his father has discharged himself from the hospital, taken all his money out of the bank and, with a young black female mental patient, vanished in a yellow Cadillac convertible. Left


On the Ides of March, our hero, Raleigh Whittier Hayes (forgetful husband, baffled father, prosperous insurance agent, and leading citizen of Thermopylae, North Carolina), learns that his father has discharged himself from the hospital, taken all his money out of the bank and, with a young black female mental patient, vanished in a yellow Cadillac convertible. Left behind is a mysterious list of seven outrageous tasks that Raleigh must perform in order to rescue his father and his inheritance.

And so Raleigh and fat Mingo Sheffield (his irrepressibly loyal friend) set off on an uproarious contemporary treasure hunt through a landscape of unforgettable characters, falling into adventures worthy of Tom Jones and Huck Finn. A moving parable of human love and redemption, Handling Sin is Michael Malone's comic masterpiece.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Demonstrating a spirited grasp of the genre, Malone (Dingley Falls) has written a "romance novel'' in the original sense: a long tale of chivalrous heroes and extraordinary events. This madcap book bubbles with a frenzy from the first pages, an initially disconcerting pace that rarely allows the reader to catch a breath. With a wink to Cervantes and Dickensas well as the Marx Brothersthe narrative recounts the two-week odyssey of Raleigh Whittier Hayes, an upstanding citizen of Thermopylae, N.C., and Mingo Sheffield, his Sancho Panza. They encounter a bizarre cast of characters during their adventures, including Raleigh's criminal half-brother Gates, his prison buddy Weeper Berg, and aging jazzman Toutant Kingstree. Their quest, to unfairly simplify it, is to recapture Hayes's ailing father, who has escaped from the hospital with a young black woman, and who has left Raleigh a strange set of tasks to fulfill before a planned rendezvous in New Orleans. While tantalized by the promise of a secret treasure at the end of the journey, Hayes uncovers family secrets and Raleigh is granted a large measure of self-enlightenment. This is a highly refreshing tale in which Malone has managed to make the bizarre hilariously credible.
Library Journal
With braggadocio, Malone says in his acknowledgments that he expects a major movie company to buy Handling Sin. And his novel's scenario does seem designed to outdo Cannonball Run, Peyton Place and, at times, Porky's. It stars Raleigh W. Hayes, Baptist Church stalwart, Civitan regular, staid insurance agent, who miraculously metamorphoses overnight into Bruce Lee/Rocky/Rambo as he totes a pistol, battles the KKK and the other gangsters, poses as an FBI agent, and shades of Mickey Spillaine, has sensuous women swooning as he travels from Thermopylae, N.C. to New Orleans with excessively contrived adventures. This episodic novel panders with explicit sexual encounters, manipulated incidents/coincidences, and flagrant reliance on deus ex machina. But, alas, there is little reading pleasure in it. Glenn O. Carey, English Dept., Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond

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6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Like everyone else, Raleigh Hayes saw the world, and the people with whom he was obliged to share it, through the kaleidoscope of his own colored designs. As the years turned the viewer round and round, the bits of glass fell into new patterns, but the perspective remained limited to Raleigh's eye.

That there was a world that was not merely an elongation of his own limbs, that there were people in it who were not merely extensions of his own will, he had accepted, in frustration, before the age of two. He had learned by then that he did not make himself bounce merrily in air, nor was the woman's voice saying, "This is the way the ladies ride. Trot trot trot," his own. The fingers that made the church and steeple, made the white bear jump out of no place into view, tucked the shiny blanket around his shoulders, were not his own fingers, nor was the man's voice his that said, "Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite, Little Fellow."

But if this knowledge gradually shrank him, so that he no longer painted pictures in which he towered not only over his stick-legged parents, but over the square house and the round spoked yellow sun; still, to the boy, the world beyond his ken stayed shadowy, and he as indifferent to it as it was to him. Outside Thermopylae there was nothing mapped on the globe but Cowstream to the east, the state capital to the west, the beach, beyond the beach a vague ocean, and, indistinctly, a shape called North Carolina surrounded by an incalculable shape called America, surrounded by, in the first years of his life, that "Overseas" where "We" were trying to win against "Them" before they took over the world and killed everyone in it.

As with everyone else, age did not entirely enlarge the young Raleigh's point of view. He realized there were a great many other people, up to their vague other business, but he assumed that the world around him was, simultaneously, unremittingly engrossed in Raleigh Hayes, while remaining utterly incapable of penetrating his secrets or understanding his unique personality. He believed both that his teachers noticed no other pupils but him, and that they never saw him down the row of yellow desks, reading "Joe Palooka" comics behind his math book, or nodding off to sleep in warm study periods, or staring heartsick at one of those girls whose rope-jumping usurpation of the sidewalk had once so annoyed him. Believed both that the whole fourth grade stared at him in the halls, and that none of them knew that his parents had divorced. Believed both that his mother had no life distinct from his, and that she had no inkling that he ever hid the evidence of his wet dreams at the bottom of the laundry hamper. Believed both that the entire town of Thermopylae was talking about the fact that he had bought a package of Trojan condoms at the drugstore, and that not a single person suspected what he might want to do with them. Like everyone else, Raleigh Hayes did not realize that most other people heard more and cared less than he imagined, just as he cared less about their secrets than they believed.

In his preoccupation with himself, Raleigh was certainly not unusual. Our hero was, however (particularly for a citizen of a small southern Piedmont town, out of which, or into which-as his aunt Victoria said-almost nobody had budged for two hundred years), rarer in the thoroughness of his indifference to what did not concern him, and even to what did. As the edges of his world moved back and the shadowy figures in it took on color and form, it was his habit to map and neatly label the typography, then explore no further. This disinterest he came to perceive as a virtue: he never gossiped, and would not willingly listen to the gossip of others.

All his life, Raleigh congratulated himself that it was not in his character to open mail not addressed to him, to open doors without knocking, to pry when it was none of his business. When his Hayes relatives began chortling together through long evenings of garbled gossip about each other or anecdotes about whatever they had managed to remember or make up about the Family Past ("Tell the one about when Papa went up with the barnstormer and the wing fell off. Tell the one about Aunt Mab and that jibber-jabber bigamist from Chicago"), Raleigh picked up an erector set or a stereo kit or a book. He, frankly, wasn't interested.

Meet the Author

Michael Malone is the author of ten novels, a collection of short stories, and two works of nonfiction. Educated at Carolina and at Harvard, he is now a professor in Theater Studies at Duke University. Among his prizes are the Edgar, the O. Henry, the Writers Guild Award, and the Emmy. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife.

Brief Biography

Hillsborough, North Carolina
Place of Birth:
Durham, North Carolina
B.A., Syracuse University; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University

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Handling Sin 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I will admit, when I began this selection, I had my doubts. It took me well into the first 80 pages or so to get into the book, but I am glad that I stuck with it. This is the only book that has ever made me laugh out loud! It is a fascinating tale, and once it gets rolling, it keeps you on your toes. Magnificent twists and lovable characters, I would recommend this to anyone wanting a good book that will leave them happily fulfilled.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I happened upon this book in 1993, while grazing in the public library. Since then, I have purchased at least 5 copies as gifts for friends and family. A poignant twist on the Don Quixote fullfillment tale, the novel is rife with memorable characters we can all name from our own lives, very amusing plot turns, not to mention the underlying themes of self-discovery and redemption.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The characters are so varied and the situations our clueless hero finds himself in are hysterical. The aloof man you meet in the beginning becomes transformed through discovering family secrets and an identity changing journey that will leave you laughing out loud at times. It was my favorite read of the year...really.
Delamaine More than 1 year ago
Sadly, a book that I repeatedly read in print has been altered for the Nook. Why is this? I haven't seen this before. It seems to be mostly current-event references. For example, when Caroline gives her Walkman to Raleigh, she is now listening to Sting (in the print copy it is Toto). It is explained that the only reason Aura went on a date with Raleigh is because 'he asked her an interesting question about herself.' (In the book, 'he was the only GI she'd met who hadn't claimed to be a bunkmate of Elvis Presley.') My print copy is a recent reprinting, with the same cover as is shown on this Nook book... However, this is still a great book. If you haven't read it, you'd probably like either copy.
JennieBee More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in my early twenties, and while I thought it was funny and the characters charming, I really didn't 'get it'. I couldn't relate to the main character or many others. Having re-read it again in my early 40's and being closer in age to the main character, I know GET how the events of his past and present are bringing him to the brink of finally finding out who he is. As a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the main character is someone we can all relate to, and the journey he takes isn't unlike one many of us have been on - albeit a bit crazier than what ours might be like. I've read many of Malone's other works, but this one continues to be my favorite.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I started it just because it seemed different and ended up finding a new favorite author. Michael Malone's style of writing is very comfortable, like a conversation. His characters are well-formed, seem familiar. and are so very easy to identify with throughout the book. I found myself saying silently, "Yes, I have thought exactly that before!" And at other times, recognizing the same type of people we all know and have met. What a great way to realize how we all get drawn into our plans for life and forget to actually live and enjoy it. Life isn't a checklist. I looked forward to having time to get back to the book and find out what happens next. I absolutely will read his other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read everything Michael Malone has written and enjoyed everyone.  I laugh out loud, I nod my head  and sometimes I cry.  Even my husband likes them.  I heard him speak once, bought one book a nd was hooked.  Recommended "The Last Noel" to book club, it remains one our favorites.  
nickelschangePK More than 1 year ago
Read this book years ago and thought it was the funniest, laugh out loud book I had ever read. Lent it to someone and it never came back. So glad it is out in ebook so I can add it to my library and re read it.
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Tivakhalim More than 1 year ago
Mr. Malone has a unique talent for bringing to print every neighbor, friend or relative that I've ever known in the South! His characters are developed deftly and I feel within a paragraph or two that I know them well (probably because of the similarities to people I've known). I quite enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book kept me laughing. I read it mostly at night before bed, so it took a few weeks to read. I loved the book and the characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled upon this madcap novel at a used book sale. I've read it so many times since, the front cover has fallen off and the back cover is threatening to do the same. At first reading, I thought Handling Sin was the funniest book I ever read. But after I stopped laughing my rear off, I realized there's much more to the book. Undergirding all the crazy characters and insane adventures is a very positive message about life, love, and family. It's one of those rare books that you don't want to end. I can't recommend it enough.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you need to laugh...here's a winner. If you need to cry, try Pieces of A Poet, The Symphony of An Adolescent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
HANDLING SIN is one of those rare laugh-out-loud books. While it has some poignant moments, most of the book is so funny with its down-to-earth dialogue and wacky characters. I will highly recommend this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book ranks as one of my all time favorites. I first bought it in 1986 and am now ordering it for a friend's birthday. It's quirky, very touching, utterly ridiculous at times. It is so hard to find a book that tells a lot about people and yet does it with wild humor. It's an absolute treat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that you remember like a holiday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just too slapstick. Reminded me of a Chevy Chase or Steve Martin "roadtrip" movie. The author could have pared it down by 300 pages and still got the point across.
katz27 More than 1 year ago
I was not wild about this book. I read half of it and it got to be too much of the same antics, different town, more preposterous characters. I really wanted to like it and just couldn't go on. I very rarely give up on a book. Just couldn't do this one.