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Handling Sin

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,796 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 700 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an exuberant, raucous, Drunkard's Walk of a book. It's the kind of book words like exuberant and raucous were coined to describe. And I loved it.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Apr 06, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Megan Baxter
A surprising and delightful read. It goes down like an old fashioned, satirical adventure novel such as “Don Quixote” crossed with an absurd cross-country road trip as in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” or a comedy starring Peter Sellars.

The set-up is nicely done in the preface and first chapter:
There lived in the piedmont of North Carolina a decent citizen and responsible family man named Raleigh Whittier Hayes, who obeyed the law and tried to do the right thing. He had a wife and two daughters… E
Sep 11, 2008 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a GREAT book! You know how so many well-written contemporary books are so angst-ridden? It's like you can't write a complex, literary kind of work unless your main character is from some other country reflecting on horrible events that ended up isolating him or her from all other people (except, perhaps, for cold, angsty love affairs)and now, in America, reflects on the failure of the American dream.

Yeah, this book is every bit as complex, literary, and well-written as those books, but
Jan 28, 2008 Maggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this and laughed the whole way through... Malone's great for a comic read, and this is my favorite of his so far. Why isn't he more popular? And someone please make this movie, although I know the chances aren't great I'll like it. But I love the potential of a great movie based on "Handling Sin." Someone? Anyone?
Sep 15, 2009 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I should have liked this more, but I wanted it to end after 400 pages. The background, hisory and irony are meticulous and I found a lot of the scenes quite funny. It reminded me of Peter DeVries. I read a bunch of his books in the 80s. Unfortunately, I couldn't help myself wondering why they didn't keep in touch with cell phones!

Are the stereotypes there to point out stereotyping? Gluttonous fat guy with heart of gold; wizened old black housemaid; uptight white insurance man; black
Nov 25, 2010 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like a love affair that quietly grew and caught me by surprise. At first I laughed out loud and found the book very amusing, but wondered why it was going to take the author 540 pages to finish the story. I had categorized the book as a Good-Ol'-Boy Road Trip. The Odyssey fueled by grits and racism. The book is very well written and laugh-out-loud funny, but I was at least halfway through it before I realized that I really cared for the whole absurd collection of characters ...more
Sep 11, 2016 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because this book is so determined to be sweet, how could I not love it? But I didn't. It has a lot going for it: the dialogue is catchy, much of the humorous dialogue was actually funny (though note that I didn't laugh out loud once)* the settings are well rendered, and its regular forays into reflection were wistful and honest, though straying into heavy handed commentary from time to time.
Yet my overall experience of the book felt like a chore: the premise was over-determined, the plot overwr
Sep 29, 2009 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Defiantly not my usual fare, but sure glad I took a chance on it. This a wild and wacky two week journey from Theromoplyae, North Carolina to New Orleans taken by one Raleigh Whittier Hayes, his best friend Mingo Sheffield and an assorted group relatives and strangers. Raleigh, a insurance salesman an upright pillar of the community is tasked by his elderly father to perform a number of tasks and then meet him in New Orleans on a certain date. Now Early Hayes (dad) was last seen leaving the hosp ...more
May 31, 2013 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book nearly thirty years ago and never finished. I am so glad that I returned to it now. If I was ever going to return to writing, this is the sort of book I would like to write. It's got a bit of everything except graphic sex or violence, not to say sex and violence are not there, they just aren't the raw version we see in other novels these days. In bygone years, the book would be described as picaresque, nowadays I think they call it a "road trip" novel. Throughout the tone cha ...more
Mar 27, 2007 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At my last job, my co-workers saw the title and clerical collar on the cover of this book and assumed I was a religous zealot.


This is one of my all-time favorite books. It takes a bit to get into it, but once the characters hit the road you won't be able to put it down. Oh, Mingo Schetfield!
Jul 09, 2015 Robin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
I'm in the 200-pager club. I can't stand the main character- he doesn't seem to even know his wife & kids. I'm guessing he's like Scrooge & will end up being a person, but the route to get there is way too circuitous for me!!!
Judith Engle
Mar 24, 2016 Judith Engle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, fiction, favorites
Absurd, but true. Irreverent but insightful. Hilarious and heart warming. An outstanding work and a perfect summer read.
Wendy Terrien
Feb 19, 2012 Wendy Terrien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tricky book for me to rate and review. I'd really like to give it about 3.4 stars but, clearly, that isn't an option. Following the rules of rounding, I should technically give it three stars, but that just seemed too low.

Here's the thing. This book is funny. It has great characters. Are some of them a bit stereotypical? Yes. But stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, and these characters are still interesting.

But, this book has a lot of characters, all of them quirky and/or eccent
Mar 10, 2010 Elysa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: persian-pickles
I love this book!! It is funny on nearly every page, with well-written humor that is both subtle and hilariously outrageous. The characters are larger than life and well drawn, each with unique and wonderful idiosyncrasies. It is both a laugh-out-loud tale of an epic journey, and a wise exploration of life, Christianity, and the things that are truly important. At the end of its 600+ pages, I just wished I could read more about this colorful group of people, and I found myself missing Earley Hay ...more
Jim Gibson
Jul 11, 2012 Jim Gibson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can somebody tell my why this book isn't really famous? It should be. Because it's wonderful in every respect. I'm re-reading it, finding it even funnier the second time, and marveling at how Malone kees all those balls in the air without dropping a single one. He's a master.

And here's the thing. The book isn't just a meandering Southern picaresque ramble through the South, with all the requisite Southern types---it's ultimately a serious book treating a serious subject.

It really doesn't get b
Aug 25, 2012 A-bookworm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Out of the thousands of books I've read, so many I can't even remember half because I didn't keep a list then, this one stands blazingly out from amongst those long forgotten. I never forgot this one. Cliched as it might sound, Michael Malone had me laughing out loud, (all alone, by myself) with this one. It also has great heart, you'll laugh and cry. I have given this book away as a gift more than any other book, that's how much I enjoyed it. A wonderful tale from start to finish. Not for the p ...more
Carolyn Zeller
Nov 04, 2011 Carolyn Zeller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is hilarious, sort of like watching Chevy Chase in European Vacation only much wilder. Lots of crazy laughs in this fabulous epic comic. My husband and I both have it on the Kindle. The characters and language are a tour de force. My husband and I read and laugh together. We think it should be a movie and Billy Crystal can be Weeperberg. Eddie Murphy can be Kingstreet and maybe John Goodman can be Mingo. John Ham (Madmen) can be Raleigh. A young George Clooney can be Gates. Hahahahaha. ...more
May 16, 2010 Valeska rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really like "road" books (see my love for Travels with Charley) and I also love books with great characters (see Russo). This book had both! The situations were so funny, but the characters could be both so touching and brazen at the same time. It was a great seeing how the characters would react to the situations they either put or found themselves in. I think people would get a good kick out of this book.
Elizabeth Jennings
Feb 03, 2013 Elizabeth Jennings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Another reviewer said the word raucous was coined to describe books such as this, and I couldn't agree more. It is one of the few books I've read that literally made me laugh until tears came. It could be because I'm from Piedmont Carolina myself, and Malone simply NAILS it.....

So I'm not sure how to recommend this book to folks outside the South, but if you are Southern and like a comic, irreverent, RAUCOUS look at life, you need to go get this book already!
Lucia Williams
Jan 27, 2014 Lucia Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the best book I've ever read. I laughed out loud and cried in equal amounts. The writing style is different to any other book I've read and it took me a few pages to get it - in fact I almost gave up but I'm so glad I didn't. It's clever, intelligent, and so funny. And a great reminder that life is for living. There are too many topics to cover about why it's such a good read - religion, racism, health, family, joy, hate - this is a book I would read again and I never do that.
Jeff Deck
Feb 10, 2013 Jeff Deck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty impressive achievement as both an extended comedic adventure and a critique of and love letter to the South. It IS far too long. At 650 pages, even the funniest comedy would wear out its welcome. And it starts off on the slow side. But once the road is hit for a grand journey, an odyssey even, the book comes into its full flower. There are truly hilarious and touching moments in here.
Dec 21, 2007 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
The funniest book I've ever read. While it's terribly cliched to say so, this book really did make me laugh and make me cry. READ THIS BOOK.
The story of a man whose orderly, controlled life is torn every which way to pieces in a few short weeks, this 'road' book covers an amazing amount of ground.
Jane Niehaus
Jan 31, 2008 Jane Niehaus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was hilarious--had me laughing out loud, and eager to get back to it. An escapade with amazing characters, lots of action--it's a pleasure to read. It's 5 stars for me--but is it one of the greatest books of all times? No. I'm realizing I need to rate for my enjoyment--which was great.
Jul 18, 2008 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one!
Recommended to Lisa by: I'll keep his name anonymous!
I give up. I almost always finish books, but life is too short and this bad book is keeping me from reading good books. I read about 1/3 of it (200 pages!) and do not like it. The main character is constantly annoyed (for good reasons) and that made me annoyed. I wanted to like it because the reviews are amazing and it was highly recommended by a friend, but I dislike it and am moving on!
Dec 18, 2007 Whitney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is totally hilarious southern literature. I have been wondering if it's so funny to me because of my experience living among southern culture, or if it would be just as funny to someone who had never experienced southern culture. It's a riot of a read though, keeps you on the edge of your seat and is a good adventure.
Jeff Howe
Nov 04, 2014 Jeff Howe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. It has a great cast of characters, is extremely inventive and oftentimes laugh out loud funny. I couldn't put it down but hated to finish it! I'd highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it and I know I'll be rereading it again in the not too distant future.
Sep 17, 2010 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book: Southern people suck. Also, Southern people rule. If this book doesn't make you want to live for a while in a small town in the South, well, then you're probably a sensible person, admittedly, aware of the high cost of relocation in a bad economy.
Arwen Downs
Dec 27, 2007 Arwen Downs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just re-read this book a few weeks ago, and forgot the delightful characters and ridiculous plot. Perhaps it is only for those who hold Southern fiction close to their hearts, but I have begun following in my father's footsteps and reading the prologue aloud to anyone who will listen.
May 18, 2012 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It had me laughing out loud.The characters are well developed and thoughtful. It is well written Souther lit with a zany twist -- sort of reminded me of Carl Hiaasen.
Oct 15, 2016 Yves rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Commitment, redemption, love, friendship, family ties and values, religion and atheism, interracial rapports and relationships are extolled in this sugarcoated story. We follow our accidental hero and his motley crew of followers on a farcical road trip assignment from Redneckville, NC to New Orleans, witnessing with glee their stumbling on and engaging, respectively, the Klan, Hells Angels, Goth sloths, the FBI, mobsters, convicts on the run, cadets of the Citadel on a night-drill, and adultere ...more
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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.
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