Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
A Novel

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With Lost Memory of Skin Banks crosses a cautionary tale about human sexuality with an adventurous account of coming of age, an idiosyncratic union to say the least. It succeeds through an infallible execution of voice that conveys and contextualizes the Kid’s bemused and searching perspective.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

The acclaimed author of The Sweet Hereafter and Rule of the Bone returns with a provocative new novel that illuminates the shadowed edges of contemporary American culture with startling and unforgettable results

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.

 

About Russell Banks

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Russell Banks is the former president of Cities of Refuge North America, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. Banks lives in upstate New York, and he was the New York State author from 2004–2008.
 
Published September 27, 2011 by Ecco. 433 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Lost Memory of Skin
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Wayne Gooderham on Feb 08 2013

Unfortunately, it is also poorly plotted, with a baggy, unfocused narrative, and its dramatic tension is severely undermined by a blurb that gives away far too much of the plot.

Read Full Review of Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Donna Bailey Nurse on Oct 21 2011

With Lost Memory of Skin Banks crosses a cautionary tale about human sexuality with an adventurous account of coming of age, an idiosyncratic union to say the least. It succeeds through an infallible execution of voice that conveys and contextualizes the Kid’s bemused and searching perspective.

Read Full Review of Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for Lost Memory of Skin
73%

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