Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Lost Memory of SkinLost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say, first and foremost, that this is not a book for everyone. The subject matter is likely to make some people extremely uncomfortable. Although there is no gratuitousness to the novel but the situations and events described can be off putting. This book explores the life of a young sex offender and the people/places that populate his life.

I now understand why I've heard so many wonderful things about Russell Banks ... what he creates in this novel is nothing less than amazing, in my opinion. His storytelling is stellar ... his ability to take his readers through something morally repugnant and help them to see it in all its complexity. Because of his skill at slowly but surely breaking down the social barriers, allowing the reader to begin to have some sense of understanding for the main character, whether you like him or not. I found this to be one of the best things about this novel. The journey that Banks took me on could have gone bad ... and easily. But, he so deftly guided me through the nuances of the characters flaws. This gave me the opportunity to see an additional layer of humanity where I assumed there was none.

I'm not sure that anyone is interested in sexual predators, per se, but I did find this novel's exploration of their lives, their alienation and their complexities to be thought provoking. It offered me a new view of something that I felt fairly decisive about. Russell Banks appears to be able to take his readers into the darkness of humanity and allow them to better understand themselves and the world around them. So I won't say that this was a fun book - its dark and its certainly not fun. It is compelling and thought provoking.

The writing is simply amazing in places ... there were moments that simply took my breath away. This man can write! Banks simply amazed me with his characterizations & how he made the characters come alive for me. They are complex and fascinating. Almost every single character that he writes into the novel captivated me in some way - I found myself resonating with characters that I never believed I could possibly find anything compelling in.

I appreciate the themes that Banks was exploring in this novel - I came away from this novel with so much to think about personally. This novel is tragic and sad. There isn't much happiness or hope here. But, its a strong exploration of homelessness, sex offenders and attitudes about sexuality in general. There are pieces and parts that I didn't think worked in the novel but there were other pieces that blew me away. It wasn't easy to root for anyone in this novel but I think that's a testament to Banks' talent at crafting the story.

I definitely recommend it but know that its not for the faint at heart and there is a great deal of content that relates to sexuality in a number of forms. It's not gratuitous but it could be disturbing to some.

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