The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks *Review*

Russell Banks was unknown to me before I started his newest novel.  Looking at the list of all the other books he had written, it amazed me I had never heard of him.  I guess this just proves it’s never too late to discover a new author that you enjoy reading.

The Kid…that’s it…just the Kid, is a convicted sex offender living under the Causeway in Calusa, Florida.  He has a job bussing tables and a pet iguana named Iggy, not very original, he knows, but he was only nine when he received him from his mom after a girls weekend in Mexico.

From an early age the Kid is ignored by his mother while boyfriend after boyfriend walk in one door of his mother’s bedroom and soon walk out.  With too much time on his hands the Kid turns to the computer to ease his loneliness.  Before long he’s addicted to pornography and maxing out his mother’s credit card on hard-core porn sites.

Oh! And she’s mad!  She’s hotter than a hornet!  How dare he max out her credit cards,  she screams…and then proceeds to sit down and watch, with fascination, what the Kid has found so intriguing.

We know from the very beginning that the Kid is a convicted sex offender.  What we don’t know is his exact crime.  Mr. Banks is a genius for not telling us until we have the majority of the book under our belt.  Knowing from the beginning would have set our minds to a certain preconceived notion that would have made it hard to get to know the Kid without being repulsed by him.

Instead, we get to know him piece by piece.  We know he’s fiercely devoted to Iggy, his one and only friend.  We know his father is not now, nor ever has been, a part of his life.  He  knows he’s not like the other sex offenders living in the makeshift community they now call home;   Paco, the Greek, P.C., Rabbit, Froot Loops & Shyster, all with nicknames- a way of leaving their old self behind and becoming new, more anonymous people.  They leave him alone and he keeps to himself.

Then the Professor comes into his life.  The Professor, an obese man, is maybe the most intelligent man in Calusa.  He is studying the relationship between sex offenders and homelessness, and he wants to learn more about the Kid and his particular situation.  Slowly he works to gain the Kid’s trust.  But the Professor, who tries to uncover the Kid’s secrets is not without secrets of his own.

When the Causeway is raided by the police and the community is broken up, the residents scatter and once again the Kid is on his own.  Spending time by himself causes the Kid to do some much-needed soul-searching and several theories about why he’s addicted to pornography come to him.  Maybe addictions are the result of being bored and making life more interesting to yourself.

I enjoyed the journey into the Kid’s mind.  It was interesting getting to know him as an individual, a human being, and not just as the monster we lump all sex offenders to be in our mind.  I would be remiss if I didn’t include a

for sexually explicit language and subject content.  If you’re able to step outside your comfort zone and wince a time or two (or thirty-eight!) you might find this novel to be incredibly insightful.     4/5 stars


One response to “The Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks *Review*

  1. Angie this is a fantastic review! Now I am sitting here thinking about this book. I love great writing – even when it makes me wince a time or thirty eight. As long as the level on winces are appropriate to the effect of the book… I can usually deal with it.

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