Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Don't Do It. Do NOT Get Sucked In!

Sometimes I'm able to figure out within a few pages (and most of the time I will give a book up to 50 or so pages) if I'm going to go through with it. Every once in while I do get sucked in (hence my warning) and there is nothing I hate more than waiting for the book to provide me with a good conclusion or to live up to its potential.

Alas, this book did not do either. The premise was interesting and I thought it might redeem itself in the end. Kid, a young adult who is on the sex offender registry, is one of the many individuals who cannot find a place to live that won't be a violation due to the strict rules in Florida (this is a true challenge in Florida and can be read about in countless articles - here is just one example) so he is forced to live under a causeway beneath the freeway.

Living in a sex offender colony without much chance to interact with the rest of society is very similar to being a leper. This book goes through Kid's trials and tribulations in living on the fringes of society without an opportunity to change his destiny as he has not ability to move from this situation. Enter a college professor who thinks that he can use Kid as a research project to find out what makes a sexual offender tick and if they can be rehabilitated. So begins a social experiment with both Kid but many of his fellow colonists.

For so many reasons, this premise interested me. I work in the non profit world of housing and without getting into the politics or perspectives of this charged subject, the reality is that returning community members do eventually leave the prison system and do return to neighborhoods with restrictions. The strict rules and limits in where these people can live in Florida have created these colonies and I was curious to learn more about this subject.

Kid is also a very interesting character and it was unclear in the beginning what he had done to end up in this situation. In many ways he was a sympathetic character but I don't want to give anything away. Let's leave it at this, when I found that what he had done he was either really naive or he was not giving the full story or taking any responsibility for his actions/intent. His childhood was not ideal, and he did not have real role models, but that is true for a lot of society as well.

My real problem comes from the whole professor storyline. He was not the least bit sympathetic and the more I read this book the more I really disliked him. I thought that maybe at the end, this whole intersection of the Professor and the Kid would redeem the book but it did not.

So please, consider this your PSA for today. Don't bother. Don't wait for the book to resolve itself, don't count on a conclusion that will tie up the loose ends, don't wait for a deeper meaning. Just don't bother to start it.

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