The Incendiariesby Published 31 Jul 2018
"In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable." —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere.
A shocking novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Time, Parade, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, PBS, Vulture, Buzzfeed, BookRiot, PopSugar, Refinery29, Bustle, The Rumpus, Paste, and BBC.
Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.
Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group--a secretive extremist cult--founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe's Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he's tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.
The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most. who lose what they love most.
"The Incendiaries" Reviews
This is one of THE summer buzz books, plus the author wears some incredibly bad-ass eye makeup, so I was looking forward to reading it. But it left me a little cold. The description makes it sound like an exciting read, but it’s much more interior—about a sad sack college student obsessed with a girl who gets involved with a Christian cult. They spend a lot of time discussing wanting a relationship with Christ/God, which is not super compelling for me (I’m Jewish), and they are both incredibly unhappy people, which makes it a kind of depressing read. The writing is great but I was relieved when this was over. Content warning for rape. B.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in July.
I’m delighted to catch this writer at the beginning of her career. This debut novel is stunning, especially in its handling of characters I feel like I’d know if I saw them on the street.
10 out of 5 stars. Wow wow wow are we all discovering a talent in Ms. Kwon. The book is eerie, and unsettling, but also sweet and beautiful... and you read the story from the outside... then all at once a simple narrator change grounds everything, makes it a story you or I could be part of. The genius here is the author's ability to pull you in, then push you all the way out to be an observer, or vice versa. I sympathized with Phoebe until it was time to see her from a distance, which was clever. I took notes about Will until it was time to see through his eyes, and I could. I love this book. I am hungry to read it again. I am eager for many others to read it, too.
Absolutely loved this one. It's a beautifully written, literary novel, but the darkness of the story and the writing create the kind of eerie atmosphere you'd find in the best psychological suspense. I almost never re-read, but might make an exception for this when everyone's talking about it this summer
The blurb on the front says it all: "A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance."
I went back and forth between liking it and not. My dislike stemmed from my frustration at the character choices and my own bias against organized religion and its complicity in ruining lives as much as it saves.
It was interesting getting this story from the point of view of someone who has struggled with faith and then struggles with loving someone who, although in obvious need of the comfort religion can offer, has certainly chosen the wrong place to bury her demons.
The deeply personal, yet somewhat emotionally distant tone (a tone that kept me feeling like an observer rather than a participant) and switching character focus kept me in anticipation and I could hardly put it down until I finished it in an afternoon.