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Suspended in a strangely modern-day version of limbo, the young man at the center of Russell Banks’s uncompromising and morally complex new novel must create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration. Known in his new identity only as the Kid, and on probation after doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders.
Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid, despite his crime, is in many ways an innocent, trapped by impulses and foolish choices he himself struggles to comprehend. Enter the Professor, a man who has built his own life on secrets and lies. A university sociologist of enormous size and intellect, he finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research on homelessness and recidivism among convicted sex offenders. The two men forge a tentative partnership, the Kid remaining wary of the Professor’s motives even as he accepts the counsel and financial assistance of the older man.
When the camp beneath the causeway is raided by the police, and later, when a hurricane all but destroys the settlement, the Professor tries to help the Kid in practical matters while trying to teach his young charge new ways of looking at, and understanding, what he has done. But when the Professor’s past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two men’s relationship shifts.
Suddenly, the Kid must reconsider everything he has come to believe, and choose what course of action to take when faced with a new kind of moral decision.
Long one of our most acute and insightful novelists, Russell Banks often examines the indistinct boundaries between our intentions and actions. A mature and masterful work of contemporary fiction from one of our most accomplished storytellers, Lost Memory of Skin unfolds in language both powerful and beautifully lyrical, show-casing Banks at his most compelling, his reckless sense of humor and intense empathy at full bore.
The perfect convergence of writer and subject, Lost Memory of Skin probes the zeitgeist of a troubled society where zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety and compassion - a society where isolating the offender has perhaps created a new kind of victim.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Ellen on 10-15-11
Amazing "Must Read" Tale of (In)Justice in America
There will come a time when we look back at the sex registry as a shameful period in American history similar to the Salem Witch Trials and the Puritanism of the 'Scarlet Letter.'
I have been waiting for someone to write this book and Russell Banks has done it.
It is the story of the 21st century's Huck Finn - tortured by a system he can't understand and sentenced to a lifetime of excommunication from society. The really terrific thing about this book is that it is not didactic or preachy. It is lyrical and funny and a wonderful yarn.
Everyone who has had anything to do with someone on a sex registry will want to read this. This includes perpetrators and victims. If you haven't and you want to know what it is like, read this book. If you just want to hear a great story read this book!
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
By Lori on 01-01-17
If it's true that reading increases one's empathy, then it's because of authors who write books like this. I read 'The Darling' years ago and I still think about it. It's been a few months now since I read 'Lost Memory of Skin,' and I'm still thinking about this one as well. The characters Russell Banks creates win me over with their authenticity, and what Banks shares about them helps me to understand who they are and why they became that way. He not only writes a story that engages, he writes one that challenges what we think we know. I can't think of a better way to spend my free time. Also, the narrator is fantastic!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful