Synopses & 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 Bankss 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 Professors 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 Professors past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two mens 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.
“Russell Bankss work presents without falsehood and with tough affection the uncompromising moral voice of our time... I trust his portraits of America more than any otherthe burden of it, the need for it, the hell of it.” Michael Ondaatje
“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
“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)
“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
“Destined to be a canonical novel of its time... it delivers another of Bankss 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 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
“His boldest imaginative leap yet into the invisible margins of society… Lost Memory of Skin is a haunting book.” Wall Street Journal
“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 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
“Lost Memory of Skin should be required reading for anyone interested in fixing the countrys 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
“Among contemporary writers giving voice to Americas beleaguered working class, Russell Banks may have no peer…this oddly unsettling, beautifully crafted novel…raise[s] fascinating issues.” San Francisco Chronicle
“One of our finest novelists gives voice to the unspeakable…[A] compelling story” O, the Oprah Magazine
“[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
“Mr. Banks knows plot, and incorporates intriguing complications to keep the novel building power all the way to the end.” Pittsburg Post-Gazette
“Bankss 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 novels place in contemporary culture.” The New Yorker
“A ompelling story... one of those rare, strange, category-defying fictions that grabs hold of you... Its hard to shake it off. And even when you do, it leaves a mark.” Chicago Tribune
“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.”
“Of the many writers working in the great tradition today, one of the best is Russell Banks.”
—New York Times
Lost Memory of Skin is a provocative novel of spiritual and moral redemption from Russell Banks, the author of Affliction, Rule of the Bone, Continental Drift, Cloudsplitter, and other acclaimed masterworks of contemporary American fiction. Uncompromising and complex, Lost Memory of Skin is the story of The Kid, a young sex offender recently released from prison and forced to live beneath a South Florida causeway. When The Professor, a man of enormous intellect and appetite, takes The Kid under his wing, his own startling past will cause upheavals in both of their worlds. At once lyrical, witty, and disturbing, Bankss extraordinary novel showcases his abilities as a world-class storyteller as well as his incisive understanding of the dangerous contradictions and hypocrisies of modern American society.
About the Author
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 20042008.