Published by Riverhead Books on July 31, 2018
A powerful, darkly glittering 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.
R.O Kwon’s debut pulls no punches with its gut-wrenching portrayal of the dangerous and seductive allure of religious fundamentalism in a time when people are searching for connection in a hyper-stimulated world.
Told through three viewpoints of cult leader John, disciple Phoebe and her lovelorn boyfriend Will who is hiding secrets of his own, we are, from the first page, treated to the devastating and explosive consequences of obsessive love, faith and devotion.
Kwon’s style of writing is sparse, using snapshots rather than a linear and cohesive timeline, keeping the reader off kilter, echoing the feeling of the characters as they are swayed by charismatic leaders and lovers.
Rather than feeling involved with the characters, the experience of reading was like standing outside looking in a window, there was a distance which helped with the feeling of discomfort reading topics as emotive as those presented to the reader in this book.
The feelings of loss and desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves and the crushing disconnect that is experienced when that faith is dismantled are themes explored through the book. Uncomfortable, sharp and incredibly timely, THE INCENDIARIES is not to be missed.