Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Michael Malone: Handling Sin


Have I told you (only a hundred times?) that our family loves books? We buy them, we discuss them, and we pass them around. The one I am about to review came from my son, who got it from the wife of his wife’s father. Heee heee heeee, figure that one out!

Have you ever read A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole? As soon as you start reading Handling Sin, you get the same impression; this book is whacky, and will probably be an underground cult favorite. The author of Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, committed suicide – or so we are supposed to believe. I am not so sure. Handling Sin sounds SO like it, and they both heavily feature New Orleans.

Right off the top, this books starts out weird and keeps right on going. It opens with our hero, Raleigh Whittier Hayes at a Civitan (social and civic works group, kind of like diwaniyya) meeting at the local Chinese restaurant in Thermopylae, North Carolina, where his fortune cookie at the end of the meal says “You will go completely to pieces by the end of the month.” Raleigh sells insurance, he runs and watches what he eats because most of his family gets diabetes; and Raleigh likes order. When we meet Raleigh, he’s not all that likable.

His dying father takes off, leaving a message for Raleigh that he needs to do seven (crazy-sounding) tasks and meet him in New Orleans at a specific date and time, having accomplished these tasks, otherwise he won’t go back to the hospital for his cancer treatments.

His big fat best friend, Mingo Sheffield, insists on coming along. His wife, Aura, just laughs and tells him he needs to loosen up a little when he starts complaining about his Dad’s quest, and begins her campaign for mayor. His nice, safe structured little universe is flying apart, his twin teen-age daughters are out of control, reality as he knows it has just taken a big crunching shift and Raleigh is out of his element.

Perfect! It’s those times of maximum discomfort that we begin to achieve our maximum potential, isn’t it? If we stay in our safe little world, we aren’t challenged to grow, to think new thoughts, to see things from another perspective.

Handling Sin has a series of events that are at the same time heart warming, serious, and side-splittingly funny. I laughed out loud so many times reading this book, as our hero and his friend and all those he picks up along the way find themselves in the most outrageous and unlikely adventures, and learn what they are capable of (OK, for all you grammarians, do not end your sentences in a preposition, do as I say, not as I do!) I would not be at all surprised if this book were made into a movie, it is so much fun. As you rock along, Malone also deals with serious health issues, racial issues, family issues, political issues and law and order. You laugh, you cry, you learn a little and you laugh again. It’s a great read.

This was my back-up book on my flights back to Kuwait, and worth the weight – it’s a kind of big book. AdventureMan can hardly wait to get into it; he had started it but allowed me to read it while he caught up with his jet lag. Who knows who we will pass it along to when he finishes? It’s that good!

December 13, 2007 - Posted by | Adventure, Books, Community, Crime, Generational, Health Issues, Humor, Language, Living Conditions, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | , ,


  1. Sounds so goood!
    definitly on my list of books to get.

    Comment by Chirp | December 13, 2007 | Reply

  2. I’ll be interested to know what you think, Chirp. I wouldn’t have read it if my son hadn’t said to. It helps to have book clubs, reading friends, relatives with different interests – to help stretch our comfort zone. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 13, 2007 | Reply

  3. I’m putting it on my Wish list NOW. I loved Confederacy of Dunces for so many reasons, not the least of which was its familiar N.O. setting, so this one promises to be enjoyable also! I’ll need a good read on the way back home after hugging the babies. Happy Holidays!

    Comment by grammy | December 14, 2007 | Reply

  4. Grammy, you are going back? When do you leave, sweet friend?

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 14, 2007 | Reply

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