Philip Carmichael is popular at high school. A conscientious student and star of the basketball team, he lives in an affluent household and enjoys the latest in electronic marvels. He is well-liked by both his peers and his teachers. He dates one of the most popular girls in school. He is courteous. He is a model young American.
Philip Carmichael lives with a mother he never sees, in a house owned by a man that she now despises, and he talks, once every two weeks, on the phone to his 'biological' father. He spends a good deal of his time alone, and in silence, heating an exotic array of packaged dinners in the microwave oven, studying hard, and then winding down with a good game of DOOM or MEGA-DEATH, before studying hard again. He is detached, self-absorbed, disaffected.
Philip will soon commit an act of violence, and his trial will polarize the small New England community in which he lives.
Robert Harnum wrote this book five years ago, well before the disturbing and ever increasing present-day headlines. He believed then that he was tracing a progression which he saw as inevitable, an increasing alienation in our children that could have only one logical end point. That end point has been reached. An American writer who has enjoyed much critical success in France and Canada, Harnum has gone unpublished until now in his own country. In Exile in the Kingdom, he puts readers inside this boy's skin so we can experience for ourselves the most visible and desperate symptom of our children's alienation: the indifferent descent into cold, uncalculating violence. Even in rural Maine, where Harnum himself teaches high school, the growing presence of violence in every aspect of life is inescapable.
"Philip is the Meursault of his time", said Le Devoir, invoking Camus' The Stranger in its review of a work that Harnum, purposely mirroring that existential novel, first wrote in French. Both victim and monster, Philip tells his story in a spare, detached voice, a voice with no voice, in this novel that is as powerful as it is unsettling.
About Robert Harnum
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Published September 1, 2001
Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.