Exile in the Kingdom by Robert Harnum
(Hardscrabble Books-Fiction of New England)

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Synopsis

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 An American writer who has enjoyed much critical success in France and Canada, Harnum has gone unpublished until now in his own country.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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ROBERT HARNUM was educated at the University of Maine. Opposing the war in Vietnam, he emigrated to Canada where he pursued graduate and doctoral studies at the University of Toronto and Universite Laval. He simultaneously pursued a musical career. He has taught at the University of Connecticut, in France at La Grande ecole de Commerce de Rouen, and currently teaches high school in Brewer, Maine. Exile in the Kingdom was published in France and Canada as La Derniere Sentinelle. Harnum is also author of Une Rhapsodie Americaine (2002), Poursuite (2001), and Le Festin des Lions (1998).
 
Published September 1, 2001 by UPNE. 176 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Harnum doesn’t exactly conceal the deadly surprise hidden in Philip’s school locker (the reader figures it out early on), but he does take us deep inside the psyche of a loner who truly doesn’t understand why he feels so detached and friendless, or the consequences of his (quite literally horrifi...

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Publishers Weekly

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Unfortunately, his generic style leaves Philip with an utterly flat voice: he follows dull observations ("The morning was cold, real cold") with even duller tics ("And I don't know why").

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