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Extended Audio Sample Lost Memory of Skin, by Russell Banks Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,938 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Russell Banks Narrator: Scott Shepherd Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 Banks’ 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 Professor’s 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 Professor’s past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two men’s 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, showcasing 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Russell Banks tackles hard subjects [with] verve and courage, and Lost Memory of Skin takes us into the dark side of the dark side. Five stars.”

    Margaret Atwood

  • “Russell Banks is one of the great literary explorers of our time. He tells the story that others fear to tell. With each book he casts himself out into brand-new territory, unafraid, unabashed, unforgiving. I don’t know where we’d be without him, except perhaps cast out to sea.”

    Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin

  • “Destined to be a canonical novel of its time…it delivers another of Banks’ 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.”

    New York Times

  • “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

  • “Banks’ 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 novel’s place in contemporary culture.”

    New Yorker

  • “Among contemporary writers giving voice to America’s beleaguered working class, Russell Banks may have no peer…This oddly unsettling, beautifully crafted novel…raise[s] fascinating issues.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Los Angeles Times Bestseller
  • Selected to the October 2012 Indie Next List
  • A 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
  • An Amazon Top 100 Book of 2011
  • An ALA Notable Book
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2010
  • A 2012 Carnegie Medal for Literature Finalist
  • A 2011 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Lori | 2/6/2014

    " This is one of those books that is easy enough to read but very thought-provoking beyond the words on the page. It deals with sex offenders, specifically the challenges they have finding places to live and work within their parole restrictions. What is society supposed to do with these people? The main character, The Kid, is really well written. He seems more a product of his upbringing and some very bad judgment than a true predator. Without liking him, you do feel for him on some level. Then there's this secondary character, The Professor, around whom a mystery develops that is never really resolved. Usually this frustrates me, but it seemed somehow fitting here -- there are no easy answers anywhere in this book, that's for sure. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jane | 1/30/2014

    " Russell Banks' novels are never happy reads, but he is an amazing writer, drawing us into communities and characters that are disenfranchised, outcast, lonely, but still willing to struggle and sometimes hope. He confronts readers with complex social issues that are never easily resolvable. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Wilma Rebstock | 1/30/2014

    " I thought this book was well written but pretty creepy. Certainly, I've had enough of it and wouldn't want to be subjected to it again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Pamela J | 1/16/2014

    " I picked this one up on a lark, not really knowing the subject matter but going by Banks's earlier works. This novel gets under your skin; it sucks you in as it foreces you to explore to our contemporary US culture's neuroses about sex, technology, morality, 'truth', performing identities, etc. And at the heart of the novel, or in the eye of its recurring real and metaphorical hurricanes, is a twenty-something sex offender called the Kid, the Professor, and the Writer. Through the use of common nouns, Banks names his characters whose escapades seem unlikely yet plausible (i.e., the 'true' identity of the professor poses literal questions about his past, but also questions about how we either believe we are who we are or we don't believe, and how we either believe who others are or don't believe.) But, only one of those characters do you really come to know through the author's compassionate portrait and he is not without hope for redemption. "

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