08 July 2011

Lost Memory of Skin; Russell Banks

Lost Memory of SkinLost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of the Kid (no other name needed - his birth name is tainted by his past) and his life could be seen as a cautionary tale about the way in which we treat sexual offenders. But Banks has interwoven this story with that of the Professor, an incredibly odd sociologist purportedly studying the intersection of homelessness and sexual offenders, and the resulting story is more than the sum of its parts.

Sexual offenders in Calusa County, in what appears to be southern Florida, are prohibited from living near any where near a place where children could congregate (school, playground, library) and are thus restricted to three areas: the swamp, an airport terminal, or the Causeway, an underpass near the bay. This is where the Kid has lived since getting out of prison, along with his iguana Iggy (named for Iggy Pop). The twin catastrophes of a hurricane and police raids change the dynamic of this area and the lives of the men trapped there.

The Professor tries - somewhat - to rescue the Kid, but only for as long as his research makes the Kid necessary. His Prometheus Society-level IQ and his obesity, along with his desire to create an alternate reality for whatever it is he's doing, make the Professor one of the odder characters I've "met". The Kid finds himself trusting the Professor, much to his surprise.

By the end of the book, the Kid is essentially back where he was at the beginning, without Iggy (shot during the police raid) or a job, but resigned to his life and what society thinks of him. The Professor is dead, killed by his life and lies.

What dropped this from a 5 to a 3 was the level of digression into description and trivia. Had that been trimmed, the plot would have been more compelling and our connection to both the Kid and the Professor would have been closer.

>ARC provided by publisher

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