Aug 11, 2011

Book Review: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Title: Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell Banks
Hardcover: 432 pages. Ecco Books. 
Publication date: September 27, 2011
Source: ARC from HarperCollinsPublishers
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About: A twenty-something year old known as the Kid is discovered living under a Florida causeway with his pet iguana and his fellow homeless sex offenders, who have nowhere else to go. They have to abide by the rule that they must remain in the area as they are on parole, but they cannot live within a certain distance of schools, day care centers, or other places where there might be children. They are in a quandary because of this and are monitored by police and social workers through an ankle bracelet, which each offender must wear at all times.

The Professor is doing research on homeless sex offenders and decides to study the Kid, while trying to help him find a job and even a better way to live.  We soon find out though that the famous though grossly overweight Professor has problems of his own and a past in the inky world of espionage that soon begins to catch up with him. We see him through the eyes of the sceptical and cynical Kid, who is not a reliable narrator/observer. What is real and true about the Professor, and what is not? And how does he help or does not help the Kid? The reader has to make up his or her own mind. 

Comments:  I think that the book points a finger at some aspects of American society, the way it sometimes deals with people on all levels - imposing harsh, unrealistic and unbending rules for sex offenders like the Kid, for instance, and also for dealing in a secretive and ruthless way with successful people like the Professor, who may have done too much or know too much.

I was intrigued by the entire book. The Professor remains a mystery, but getting inside the head of the Kid and his history was quite a trip. It's a thought provoking book that gives an up close look at the life of a homeless person in the Kid, his living under the dark, dirty and dingy underside of the causeway, then trying to make a home on a houseboat in the swamps of the Everglades, the only other place he can find to live within the legal limits. 

I'm interested to see what other readers think about the book. Let me know!
 © Harvee Lau 2011


  1. This one sounds interesting. I´ll think about it, especially because of the unreliable narrator.

  2. Dorte: The Kid doesn't narrate in the first person but we are told a lot about what happens from his point of view. Tell me what you think if you read the book!

  3. This book sounds intriguing and in Russell Banks hands I think think The Kid and The Professor sound like fascinating characters. The problem with the rules for sex offenders seems to be popping up a lot lately. The laws need to be tailored a little more to the situation so I think it's good that Banks is pointing a finger & highlighting this problem as well as that of homeless people.

    Thank you for a great review!

  4. Amy: I haven't read Banks before but I think I'll look up his other books. He does have fascinating characters. Glad you liked the review!

  5. It does sound like it would give readers food for thought.

  6. bermudaonion: It certainly made me aware of the plight of the homeless...

  7. This sounds like nothing I have ever read. Very interesting :)

  8. Veens, like nothing I've ever read either. It was refreshing in a way and an eyeopener.

  9. Sounds good and a great review!

  10. Yvonne: Thanks! Glad you liked the review.

  11. Excellent review and now I want to read this one. I watched a Lisa Ling documentary about this exact problem with sex offenders and homelessness.

  12. Staci: I didn't know the topic was current; thanks for telling me! Hope you enjoy the book!

  13. I love the feel of this blog, and your posts are amazing.I might pick up this book and see for myself. Now following you. Do pay my log a visit some time, and add a comment or to. But be careful, you might not want to leave. If you like, i would like to do a guest post, and maybe an author interview on your blog, thnks.


I appreciate your comments and thoughts...

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