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Lost Memory of Skin [Kindle Edition]

Russell Banks
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: In Lost Memory of Skin, Russell Banks plays peek-a-boo with the reader lifting each corner just enough to wonder at what may lie underneath. When we meet the Kid, he is grappling with his public status as a convicted sex offender, living under a Florida causeway with other men whom society finds “both despicable and impossible to remove and thus by most people simply wished out of existence.” Enter the Professor, with his genius IQ and massive physical presence, eager to prove that men like the Kid have been shaped by social forces and are capable of change. The pair seem diametrically opposed yet share a “profound sense of isolation, of difference and solitude…,” held hostage by their secrets in this morally complex and thought-provoking story of illusions and blurry truths in a novel that that hums with electricity from beginning to end. --Seira Wilson

Review

“Destined to be a canonical novel of its time... it delivers another of Banks’s wrenching, panoramic visions of American moral life, and this one very particular to the early 21st century... Banks, whose great works resonate with such heart and soul, brings his full narrative powers to bear.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times )

“Banks may be the most compassionate fiction writer working today… Lost Memory of Skin is proof that Banks remains our premier chronicler of the doomed and forgotten American Male.” (New York Times Book Review )

“Banks’s enormous gamble in both plot and character pays off handsomely…By the end, Kafka is rubbing elbows with Robert Ludlum, and Banks has mounted a thrilling defense of the novel’s place in contemporary culture.” (The New Yorker )

“One of our finest novelists gives voice to the unspeakable…[A] compelling story” (O, the Oprah Magazine )

“His boldest imaginative leap yet into the invisible margins of society… Lost Memory of Skin is a haunting book.” (Wall Street Journal )

“Among contemporary writers giving voice to America’s beleaguered working class, Russell Banks may have no peer…this oddly unsettling, beautifully crafted novel…raise[s] fascinating issues.” (San Francisco Chronicle )

“Banks reveals the two [characters] with tenderness and trenchant wit, in a story that, not surprisingly, plumbs the depth of human despair and resilience. If that prowess is predictable, Skin is bound to leave you shaken and strangely reassured.” (USA Today )

“Mr. Banks knows plot, and incorporates intriguing complications to keep the novel building power all the way to the end.” (Pittsburg Post-Gazette )

“Russell Banks really does know how to pull his readers into a dark, dark world only to deliver us into the light.” (Boston Globe )

“Banks is in top form in his seventeenth work of fiction, a cyclonic novel of arresting observations, muscular beauty, and disquieting concerns… a commanding, intrepidly inquisitive, magnificently compassionate, and darkly funny novel of private and societal illusions, maladies, and truths.” (Booklist (starred review) )

“Like our living literary giants Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon, Russell Banks is a great writer wrestling with the hidden secrets and explosive realities of this country.” (Cornel West )

“Russell Banks’s work presents without falsehood and with tough affection the uncompromising moral voice of our time... I trust his portraits of America more than any other—the burden of it, the need for it, the hell of it.” (Michael Ondaatje )

“Lost Memory of Skin should be required reading for anyone interested in fixing the country’s broken criminal justice system…Banks, in his latest novel, takes an unflinching look at people at their worst and manages to turn it into art.” (Associated Press )

“[It] is a pleasure to see [Banks’] gift turned to big, semisurreal characters. The grand, rambling examination of guilt and blame takes place against a ravishingly bleak backdrop, lyrically described, while each revelation of character is like a quiet explosion.” (Time Out New York )

“A ompelling story... one of those rare, strange, category-defying fictions that grabs hold of you... It’s hard to shake it off. And even when you do, it leaves a mark.” (Chicago Tribune )

“Banks is a master of peeling back the veneer to show us for the desperate creatures we are, no more so than in his fearless Lost Memory of Skin…[Banks] writes here with a combination of compassion and outrage… a compelling read and an indictment of our age.” (Miami Herald )

Product Details

  • File Size: 683 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307401731
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (September 27, 2011)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005FFW2C4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,639 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
129 of 135 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Canary in a coal mine September 30, 2011
Format:Paperback
The Kid is all alone in the world, hiding in the shadows under the freeway, part of an ever-growing mass of exiles electronically shackled to a society that despises and shuns them.

But who are these modern-day lepers? And why are there so many of them? What if sex offending is a symptom of a malfunctioning society, and these men are just the canaries in the coal mine, carrying the burden of society's shame? What if the Internet is the snake in the Garden of Eden, and pornography is the forbidden fruit?

In "Lost Memory of Skin," best-selling novelist Russell Banks explores the deeper ironies of a culture that condemns pedophiles even while turning its children into dehumanized sexual commodities. But on a deeper level, the novel is about the profound loneliness and alienation of the digital age, the inability of people to get beyond false facades to truly trust and connect with each other.

To the Kid, no one is real. They are all two-dimensional characters. The Professor, a sociologist who takes a mysterious interest in him. The other trolls under the bridge, who regard each other with wary suspicion. Even his own inadequate mother, who abandoned him when he was arrested trying to hook up with a 14-year-old girl he met in a chat room after years of solitary Internet stimulation.

In interviews, Banks has said that the idea for the book came in part from the encampment of registered sex offenders living under the Tuttle Causeway near his home in Florida. Serving as a jury foreman in a child molestation trial also piqued his interest.

"The guy was clearly guilty," he told a reporter.
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160 of 170 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond tolerance September 27, 2011
Format:Paperback
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 starting a ten-year probation in fictional Calusa County, and is required to wear a GPS after soliciting sex from an underage female.

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 swamplands, the airport area, or the Causeway. He chooses the Causeway and meets other sex offenders, a seriously motley crew, who consciously isolate from each other. He befriends one old man, the Rabbit, but sticks to his tent, his bicycle, and his alligator-size pet iguana, Iggy. Later, he procures a Bible.

These disenfranchised convicts are enough to make readers squirm. Moreover, in the back of the reader's mind is the question of whether authorial intrusion will be employed in an attempt to manipulate the reader into sympathizing with these outcasts. It takes a master storyteller, one who can circumnavigate the ick factor, or, rather, subsume it into a morally complex and irresistible reading experience, to lure the wary, veteran reader.

Banks' artful narrative eases us in slowly and deftly breaks down resistance, piercing the wall of repugnance. It infiltrates bias, reinforced by social bias, and allows you to eclipse antipathy and enter the sphere of the damned. A willing reader ultimately discovers a captivating story, and reaches a crest of understanding for one young man without needing to accept him.

A series of very unfortunate events occur, and the Kid becomes a migrant, shuffling within the legal radius of permitted locales.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Russell Banks has long been considered one of the finest writers of literary fiction in America today. His portrait of the American landscape's dark side and the tortured souls who inhabit it have leapt from the small page to the big screen in award-winning films such as Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter. LOST MEMORY OF SKIN presents perhaps the most challenging work of Banks's career. With controversial and dark subject matter that is expertly handled, he creates a novel that will linger in the memory of its readers long after the final page is turned.

The main characters are not as much "people" as they are symbols and metaphors. With the exception of a few tertiary characters, the central figures here have no names. The protagonist, a convicted sex offender, is known simply as the Kid. In his early 20s, his life is already all but over. Convicted of soliciting sex with a minor, he has done his time in prison and is now forced to live under a causeway in Miami that is inhabited by fellow ex-cons and social miscreants. They represent the sad underbelly of society from which most people avert their eyes; they are the invisible minority.

The Kid is unable to get worthwhile employment, he cannot live within 2,500 feet of where children may gather, and he must wear an electronic device on his ankle for a decade, preventing him from wandering beyond the county limits. Whether the Kid was actually guilty of the crime for which he was incarcerated or set up in a string of potential sex offenders becomes almost irrelevant. The Kid, like most people, has made many mistakes in his life that he wishes he could change. His dark and somewhat perverted impulses have dominated his decision-making process and put him into a situation that seems hopeless.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary societal issues, discussed through intriguing anti-heroes
This is a brilliant book. A writer who can create and sustain interest in the fate of a youthful registered sex offender and a morbidly obese professor is to be commended. Read more
Published 2 days ago by booklover
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Do It. Do NOT Get Sucked In!
Sometimes I'm able to figure out within a few pages (and most of the time I will give a book up to 50 or so pages) if I'm going to go through with it. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Debra G. Hendren
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read this year
One of the best books I have read this year, totally involving fiction with a heart. Addiction, mystery, and wisdom rolled into a great yarn.
Published 16 days ago by Orville Stoeber
5.0 out of 5 stars An education in a novel
An author once told me that a good book should make you uncomfortable at least once while you read it.. I stayed that way throughout.
Published 1 month ago by Hoppy
3.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended
My feeling is that Banks wanted to educate his readers re several issues and he contrived two characters to create a plot to cover these social issues: Pornography addiction, sex... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sue Moran
5.0 out of 5 stars live of a sex offender
Well written book, arrived in good shape for a used one. The author explores the world of the registered sex offender who are isolated from society living under bridges. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Passionforlife
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely welll written. Sympathetic character driven story.
Extremely welll written. Sympathetic character driven story.
Published 2 months ago by Gail A.
2.0 out of 5 stars uh.....
Thought it was ok. Hard to read about sex offenders and how they are treated after jail. Just didn't get into it....
Published 2 months ago by Meghan Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Condition
All of the CDs seem to be intact and without scratches. I look forward to listening to it during my commute.
Published 2 months ago by DeeCee797
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it a novel?
Having known the individual after whom the Professor was modeled, Lost Memory Of Skin was like a kick in the stomach. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Seth Lefkow
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More About the Author

Russell Banks is the author of sixteen works of fiction, many of which depict seismic events in US history, such as the fictionalized journey of John Brown in Cloudsplitter. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes, and two of his novels-The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction-have been made into award-winning films. His forthcoming novel, The Reserve, will be published in early 2008. President of the International Parliament of Writers and former New York State Author, Banks lives in upstate New York.

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