12 November 2012

Lost Memories of Skin, by Russell Banks

Banks has long been a favorite.

This book explores a world that most of us probably don't want to think about: registered sex offenders. On parole in a fictional city in Florida, a small community of them lives under a causeway mostly because they have no choice. Enjoined to live at least 2500 feet from any place where children might congregate, this is one of the very few places in the county where they may legally reside, and they are required by the terms of their parole to remain in the county.

This man-without-a-country scenario is based on fact. In approximately 2009 I recall hearing on NPR about the sex offender community in Miami, FL, forced to live under a causeway for the same reasons as Banks' characters in Calusa, FL.

Sex offenders are a source of disgust and shame. Politicians who try to help them risk their careers. There is nothing to be gained from any non-vilifying comment or act toward this group of people.

Unfortunately, Banks for some reason found it necessary to introduce a character known as The Professor, whose complex life and background quickly takes the plot of this novel far away from the fascinating subject matter, and leads it down a path better trodden by writers of mysteries and spy thrillers. I regret to say that the result of this curious plot twist is a disappointing book.

New York Times Review

Second NY Times Review

Wikipedia Entry about the Julia Tuttle Causeway Sex Offender Colony

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