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Mysterious Skin: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life"?so runs the catchy opening to Heim's impressive first novel. The speaker is Brian Lackey, now a troubled teenager, once an introverted kid growing up scared in the small town of Hutchinson, Kans. The reason for his memory lapse and his fear, as we and Brian learn during the course of the novel, turns out not to be the space aliens that he first suspects, but his molestation at the hands of his Little League coach. The key to Brian's reclamation of those lost hours is homosexual hustler Neil McCormick?the slugger on that Little League team and an accomplice to Brian's sexual abuse. Working its way over the course of a decade toward Brian and Neil's reunion, the narrative unfolds through chapters whose points of view alternate among Brian, Neil and a handful of their siblings and confidants. Heim makes numerous freshman mistakes, including a relatively static narrative, prominent characters who outlive their usefulness and occasional lapses in the writing. He also creates scenes of genuine beauty, however, and handles his complicated characters and delicate subject matter with calm assurance.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Library Journal

Brian Lackey and Neil McCormick are so different by nature that they might never have met except for a shared incident at age eight. One summer afternoon, a storm forces the cancellation of a Little League game, and Brian catches a ride home with his coach and Neil. Ten years later, Brian still can't remember that afternoon, although he suspects that it was a turning point in his life. His search for answers eventually leads to Neil, who helps re-create the afternoon of seduction and sexual abuse that Brian has blocked from his mind. Told from a variety of perspectives, this novel looks at the long-term effects of sexual abuse and the coping mechanisms employed by abused children. First novelist Heim deals frankly with a controversial topic without becoming accusatory or maudlin. The result is powerful stuff that every public library should have.
Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060926864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060926861
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Great literature gives us fascinating characters. Daring literature takes us places we may not want to go. Among the fascinating people roaming the streets today few can be as weirdly interesting as the homosexual who offers himself up for a "good time" by scrawling his phone number on a public bathroom stall or the loopy individual who is chillingly convinced he has been abducted by aliens. You have to wonder who these people are and what damaged background could've led them to such outlandish behavior. In Scott Heim's stunning book Mysterious Skin he suggests that both behaviors could've been triggered by the same trauma, and by the time you are done reading, you will be convinced too.

Neil and Brian are two eight year old boys who have been sexually abused by their Little League coach, but their two reactions couldn't be more different. Neil is already aware of his homosexuality when he meets the coach. His father is dead and his mother is a provocative though loving drunk. Neil fancies himself in love with the coach and readily submits to all that is asked of him. Brian, on the other hand, is the product of a loving family, and one that is mildly dysfunctional in ways that could be considered more normal than "normal". For Brian the experience is so painfully disturbing that he buries it in his subconscious, blacking it out so that as the years unwind he becomes fascinated with what happened to him during his "lost hours", eventually reaching the conclusion that he was abducted by aliens.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of imdb.com, and somehow I stumbled upon the page for an upcoming movie called Mysterious Skin. It interested me, so I thought I'd check out the book. Well. I finished it about twenty minutes ago, and I'm speechless.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN has so many different characters, memorable quotes, and mind-boggling descriptions that I couldn't put it down. I'm not going to go into the full story, but the book is fantastic. Basically, it's about two boys that share a common bond, though neither of them know it in the beginning of the story. As the book advances, both characters (Brian Lackey and Neil McCormack) start to come to terms with an event that took place during the summer of 1981.

There are a few parts of the book that are extremely graphic, some pages were hard to read without putting the book down and trying to clear my mind. My short description does NOT do the book justice.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN is a fantastic novel, one that I wouldn't have chosen to read if I hadn't heard of the movie. This is definately the best book I've read in a loooong time. Highly recommended.

Overall grade - A+
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Format: Hardcover
Two boys were sexually abused by their Little League coach in the summer of 1981. Neil McCormack spent the entire summer as Coach's lover, embracing his status as Coach's special friend, the recipient of attention, treats, and money. Brian Lackey, on the other hand, only had one incident with Coach, but he doesn't remember anything other than the fact that he lost several hours during the afternoon of a rained-out baseball game.

Brian grows up as a strange, skittish boy. He wets the bed and he knows something strange happened to him. Does UFO abduction explain his loss of memory? Fragments start to come back, and he desperately records them to make some sense of the missing time.

The only person who can explain Brian's missing time is Neil, who bullied younger boys after his summer with Coach and then grew into a sexual hustler in his teenage years. After high school, he headed off to NY to begin his hustling career in earnest.

The climax of the novel comes when Neil starts to view sexual abuse from another vantage point, and Brian gets the answers about the hours that went missing during his summer in Little League. The novel centers on the degree to which each boy was shaped by his experience with Coach, and how it stayed with them for life.

The prose is sexually frank, but not sensationalist. The mystery of what happened to Brian is tantalizing and unfolds gradually over the course of years. The journey makes for a great story. On a side note, the movie adaptation is very true to the book and makes an excellent companion to the novel. It's amazing to see the characters come to life on the big screen, exactly as they were portrayed in the narrative.
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Format: Paperback
When I went to High School in Kansas I soon learned that an author had gone to the same one as me. After a few years, I found Scott Heim's first book "Mysterious Skin". I read it and it was like a punch in the chest. The story takes place in my community and amongst the people I thought I knew. I also share the same sexuality as the main character. I found the book to be a sweet and painful release to the suffering I've gone through in this state of Kansas. The hurt and horror of this book was all to familiar. Heim's words and language, his graphic paintings of reality, and his twists of beauty and perversity pour out onto the pages of this unworldy novel. Don't expect to read it and pass it off. His books will live in your memory for a long time. To take his work to heart is to look at this world with wider eyes. Definately, this book is a must. Even though the book hurts so much to read and you will want to put it away, you can't. And in the end, through the horror, you will see the beauty of his work.
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