Lost Memory of Skin
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Lost Memory of Skin

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  4,145 ratings  ·  735 reviews
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...more
Unknown Binding, 417 pages
Published September 27th 2011 (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Nancy
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

Before reading this book, I never bothered looking at the National Sex Offender Registry. Maybe it’s because I don’t have children, or I don’t care to know that much about my neighbors, or I have my doubts that all the people listed are truly dangerous. Now that I’ve finished the book, I decided to go have a look. First, I found all 8 sex offenders in my area. After studying their faces closely, noting where they lived and how old they were, I looked at sexual offenders...more
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
switterbug (Betsey)
The main character of Banks’ new novel, a twenty-two-year-old registered sex offender in South Florida known only as “the Kid,” may initially repel readers. The Kid is recently out of jail and on ten-year probation in fictional Calusa County, and is required to wear a GPS after soliciting sex from an underage girl. Ironically, he is still a virgin.

The Kid cannot leave the county, but he also cannot reside within 2,500 feet from any place children would congregate. That leaves three options—the...more
Robert
What is wrong with the world out there? This dreadful, pretentious, simple-minded, badly structured, cliche-ridden book was not only recommended to me by my shrink (and that's *really* worrying) but it was reviewed by the NY Times thus: "Banks may be the most compassionate fiction writer working today ... Banks remains our premier chronicler of the doomed and forgotten American male ... 'Lost Memory of Skin' is a major new work by Russell Banks destined to be a canonical novel of its time."

OK,...more
Larry Bassett
I like books that deal with social issues. Lost Memory of Skin did that with a topic that is not common in current fiction but is a significant but mostly hidden issue: homeless convicted sex offenders. It humanizes people who are most commonly reviled and helps us realize that this is our problem and not just theirs and may have something to say about our development of relationships in this computer and digital age.

This book includes a tour of a place where convicted sex offenders live for la...more
Kurt
I love sex offenders.

Here's the thing. I've been a public defender for six years, and I've worked for hundreds of people, with a wide variety of criminal charges, and my favorite clients - bar none - are sex offenders. See, I work in the district court system, handling less serious criminal cases, so I don't generally get clients charged with the sex offenses themselves, but I have worked for many convicted sex offenders charged with Failure to Register. My clients are people who have done some...more
Betsy
This is a disturbing book to read because it focuses on the outcasts of today's world: sex offenders. The larger question posed in myriad ways is this, "What do we do with the pariahs of society? Where do they live? How can they live?"

As with Banks's Rule of the Bone, the central character is a young boy, though in this case the Kid is barely in his twenties. His associates are a motley crew who, like him, live under a viaduct. "The Professor" plays the corpulent symbol of the decadence of over...more
K
Hmm. I really did like the premise of this one. Banks takes a young sex offender and makes him sympathetic, giving him a minor offense (one which ends up being largely theoretical when all is said and done) which is understandable in the context of his sad childhood and incredible social isolation and lack of nurturing. The offender, called "the Kid," must take up residence under a causeway together with other offenders who are rendered homeless by restrictions forbidding them to live within a c...more
jo
i have read books by russell banks that i have liked a lot -- i have a tremendously fond memory of Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift and his book about liberia, The Darling, certainly has value -- it's a pretty brutal look at liberia's terrible history of massacres, though i'm always a bit wary of books about africa's wounds written by first worlders.

still.

this book would get 5 stars solely for the fact that it focuses on the horrible plight of convicted sex offenders, a violation of human...more
Miriam Bridenne
Calusa—a city strikingly similar to Miami, nowadays. Under a causeway that shelters sex offenders, the Kid lives in a tent with his bracelet alarm and the obligation to stay at 2,500 feet from anyone under 18 years old. At 22, he feels like a stranger amidst this crowd of outcasts. He works as a dishwasher in a restaurant, stays on his own and talks to no one but Iggy, the 6-foot long iguana he has owned since boyhood. Raised by a neglectful single mom—much more of a lost child than an adult her...more
Kathrina
Everything I want to say about this book feels more like a defense than a review, and I don't want to go that road. For some reason, maybe it's my several years working with sex offenders in a prison book group, watching them empathize and identify with the same characters I empathize and identify with, or it's the injustices I've researched in offender and ex-offender access barriers to information and resources that can help rebuild their lives, and the intentional structure of our society tha...more
Ruth Seeley
Banks has always written about the disenfranchised, and this novel is no exception. Sometimes his characters are the disenfranchised by birth, but more often it's those who've managed to do it to themselves. It's a rather unsparing look at a segment of society we prefer not to know about, convicted sex offenders who've paid their dues/done their time, but continue to be condemned to a half life of homelessness and electronic surveillance. So much for rehabilitation when the conditions of your re...more
Lauren
this is a poorly written, shallow book missing all the character development and compelling story line of his other novels. I knew it was about a young man living on the streets after being convicted of a sexual crime so I expected it to be dark and hard to read yet was interested as I thought it would offer a unique perspective on a difficult topic. Based on the great reviews I read I was looking forward to reading.

After reading most of the book, and other reviews, I am left wondering if I read...more
Andrew
Does anyone else think this writer's style is awful? My brain gets tired following the rambling, run-on sentences. The book has an interesting premise, but I am not about to endure 400 pages of sentences like this one:

"But he hasn't spoken to any of them not even his mother in over a year and whenever he accidentally on the street spots somebody he once knew slightly from school or from hanging out at the mall in the old days or his job at the light store before he enlisted in the army which hap...more
Susan
A novel about a convicted, homeless sex offender, the creepy fellow sex offenders who live under a causeway with him, and a professor who treats them like lab rats – how can this book possibly be good? I was a little apprehensive about reading this one because I really don't want to read anything explicit about such an awful subject. Fortunately, there wasn't too much detail about the really horrible things that some people do although there were some sexually explicit terms and acts that made m...more
Ginmar
Far from suffering unduly at the hands of society, sex offenders are often greeted with open, welcoming arms when they say they were unjustly convicted. Exhibit A would be this book, for which the author conducted research by interviewing sex offenders. He does not seem to have doubted their tales in the slightest. Innocent sex offenders is a story that people seem to love. It's the perfect story of injustice, it seems, for some people. The question is, why? Rape is not the sort of crime that pe...more
Jay Gertzman
Russell Bank’s _Lost Memory OF Skin _ is about a 22 year old who was entrapped by the FBI, with the help of a 14 year old girl's patriotic and religious father , into visiting the chick that he had met on the internet, which he shouldn't have done. He never saw her, but must live, with a tracking anklet, so far from any church, school or house that his only recourse is to live under a causeway with other so-called pedophiles. Banks is great at showing how the nation's media have sexualized child...more
Glen
I like Russell Banks enough to say that this is not one of his best books. He swings for the fences by taking on the modern day equivalent of the leper--the sex offender--and exploring what it means to be totally outcast by society while being, in many ways, just like everyone else, only guilty. Alas, he ends up hitting at best a sacrifice fly, scoring on a few counts but missing on some others. The introduction of the character of the professor is unnecessarily convoluted and frustratingly vagu...more
Steven Buechler
One of my Top Ten reads of this year. This is what good literature is suppose to be about - looking at society and asking difficult questions about what is wrong with it. A MUST READ!!!

Page 72
"He opens Larry Somerset's Holy Bible. It's the only book in the tent. The Kid's never been much of a reader and he has hoped for a long time, every since he first heard of it. that he suffer from attention deficit disorder because in school and in the army most people regarded him as borderline retarded. H...more
Katie
I don't ever remember finishing a book, putting it down, and saying aloud, "Well, that was a stupid book." Until now. The book had potential. It is about a young sex offender who is on probation and living under a bridge because he isn’t allowed to live within so many miles of day cares, schools, etc. He can’t leave the county, so under this bridge is the only place he can live. Then along comes this professor who is allegedly studying the connection between convicted sex offenders and homelessn...more
Laurie
Very thought provoking novel! If you are looking for a nice feel-good book to read this is definitely NOT it. But.. if you don't mind looking at the dark side of society and contemplating some harsh realities you may like it as i did. The novel is about a 22 yr. old sex offender who lives under the causeway in Fla. as an outcast from society as he must live 2500 feet from schools, parks and children. He becomes part of a society of others who are also members of the national sex registry. He eve...more
Larry Hoffer
It takes a talented author to make a sympathetic character out of one who has done something odious, but Russell Banks succeeds in his new book, Lost Memory of Skin. Sadly, other aspects of the book didn't fare quite as well.

The Kid is a 21-year-old, socially awkward misfit on probation from his conviction as a sex offender, after an attempt to meet an underage girl goes awry. Unable to live less than 2,500 feet from anywhere children might gather, he lives in a tent under a South Florida cause...more
Carmen
The strength of this book lies in its first quarter, as we're getting to know the Kid in his exile in a sex offender commune under a causeway in a pseudo-Miami called Calusa. It's relevant to our modern society, we're curious about the Kid: what he's done, to what degree, and his emerging personality.

But Banks takes a weird left turn when he switches p.o.v. to the Ignatius J. Reilly-esque character known as the Professor. I'm not sure how much of this is solely just to get us to the Kid's "what...more
Captivatedaudience
I was really looking forward to reading this because the subject matter (sex offenders turned homeless due to National Sex Offender Registry laws)seemed both topical and worthy of a fiction writer's insights. In the end, though, I felt that Russell Banks took a wonderfully specific and gritty situation, fraught with urgency and complex personal and public conflict, and turned it into an abstract allegory for contemplating how one can never know the full story of the publicly ostracized. As a res...more
Louise
Story Description:

The author of Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone and The Sweet Hereafter returns with a very original, riveting mystery about a young outcast, and a contemporary tale of guilt and redemption.

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. Suspended in a modern-day version of limbo, the young man at the centre of Russell Banks's uncompromising and m...more
Anna Janelle
7-14 Final Thoughts:

It was a game-changer in terms of my thoughts regarding sex offenders and our society's prevailing laws regarding where they can set up residence. I'm still on the fence regarding my final thoughts and feelings in that my head and heart are don't agree. On the one hand, I'm horrified by the very act of sex offences; on the other hand, I'm not certain that our current rules and regulations account for the different types of offences and offenders. Regardless, I'm not comfortab...more
Vivian
I'm not sure what I think about this novel; I think it might take some time for me to come to some sort of decision of whether I liked it or not. It is a difficult story, in that it deals with society's outcasts, and how the United States as a culture has not made up its mind how to handle those who transgress the moral codes we live by. The main characters, the Kid and the Professor, both find themselves at the edges of society: the Kid because of a bad decision made one night which was interru...more
Alex Templeton
This book ended up being my top adult fiction pick of 2011, which should not be such a surprise considering that Banks’ “The Sweet Hereafter” is pretty much my top adult fiction pick of all time. What is evidenced in both that and this novel is that Banks has a tremendous empathy for his characters; he’s able to look into the darkness of their souls and come out seeing humanity rather than darkness, depravity, and what have you. His protagonists in this novel are the Kid, a teenage sex offender,...more
T. Greenwood
3 1/2 stars. Reading this book was like living in the underbelly of some awful creature. It's the kind of book that, while appreciating skill, I will never re-read. Banks takes us into the murky world of the convicted sex offender via The Kid, a 22 year old who finds himself living under a causeway in his Florida hometown after being released from prison. Despite all of this, the Kid is actually a likable character with (surprisingly) a strong moral compass. He is befriended by the Professor, wh...more
Stefanie
Ik heb nog NOOIT zo veel moeite moeten doen om een boek uit te lezen. Om in de vertaling te blijven: Wat de fok?
Russel Banks schrijft zinnen waar je letterlijk in verdwaalt zo dat je op het einde van de zin niet meer weet wat je nu las. Je klautert door meer dan 400 pagina's ellenlange zinnen om haast niets te weten te komen van De Kid en De Professor. Wat een goed boek kon worden met een tikkeltje spanning, wordt imo een flop. Er is geen doel in het boek, geen groei van de hoofdpersonages. Zeer...more
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Sex Registry 4 46 Jun 24, 2014 03:57AM  
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What are Russell Banks's best novels? 17 59 Jun 21, 2014 09:55PM  
Train books 1 5 Sep 23, 2013 06:19AM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN: 9780061857645 2 24 Nov 27, 2012 01:27PM  
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit...more
More about Russell Banks...
Rule of the Bone The Sweet Hereafter Cloudsplitter Affliction Continental Drift

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“Boys like it when you talk to them as if they were grown men—at least he always did when he was a kid—because they pretend that’s what they are anyhow, grown-up men, and they do it for their entire lives.” 6 likes
“What you believe matters, however. It’s all anyone has to act on. And since what you do is who you are, your actions define you. If you don’t believe anything is true simply because you can’t logically prove what’s true, you won’t do anything. You won’t be anything. You’ll end up spending your life in a rocking chair looking out at the horizon waiting for an answer that never comes. You might as well be dead. It’s an old philosophical problem.” 3 likes
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