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The Incendiaries: A Novel Kindle Edition
"Religion, politics, and love collide in this slim but powerful novel reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, with menace and mystery lurking in every corner." --People Magazine
"The most buzzed-about debut of the summer, as it should be...unusual and enticing ... The Incendiaries arrives at precisely the right moment." --The Washington Post
"Radiant...A dark, absorbing story of how first love can be as intoxicating and dangerous as religious fundamentalism." --New York Times Book Review
A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into a cult's acts of terrorism.
Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in 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 drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he's worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense, The Incendiaries is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.
“Kwon is a writer of many talents, and The Incendiaries is a debut of dark, startling beauty.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Disarmingly propulsive.” —Vogue
“A singular version of the campus novel … a story about spiritual uncertainty and about the fierce and undisciplined desire of [Kwon’s] young characters to find something luminous to light their
way through their lives.” —NPR’s “Fresh Air”
“Scintillating... Kwon writes dazzlingly about the bewilderment of desire.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“If you only read one book this summer, make it this complex and searing debut novel." —Southern Living
“[With] a fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History … [The Incendiaries is] the rare depiction of belief that doesn’t kill the thing it aspires to by trying too hard. It makes a space, and then steps away to let the mystery in.” —The New Yorker
“A juicy look at campus mores…Kwon delivers a poignant and powerful look into the millenial mindset.” —NPR Books
“Certain literary circles have been buzzing about R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries for months. And this slim, intense novel is the rare book that lives up to its pre-publication hype.” —Los Angeles Times
“One of those slim novels that contains multitudes, R.O. Kwon’s debut novel shows how unreliable we are as narrators when we’re trying to invent — and reinvent — ourselves." —Vulture
“If you haven't had a chance to pick up one of the buzziest novels of summer, take Emma Roberts' — and my — word for it: you can't miss The Incendiaries.” —Bustle
“In R.O. Kwon’s terrific new novel The Incendiaries, a cultist looks for meaning in tragedy. Kwon’s debut is a shiningly ambitious look at how human beings try to fill the holes in their lives.” —Vox
“Kwon’s lush imaginative project … [is to expose] the reactionary impulses that run through American life…[creating] an impression of the mysterious social forces and private agonies that might drive a person to extremes.” —The New Republic
“The main attraction and reward of this book is Kwon’s prose. Spiky, restless and nervously perceptive, it exhales spiritual unease.” —Wall Street Journal
“Kwon’s multi-faceted narrative portrays America’s dark, radical strain, exploring the lure of fundamentalism, our ability to be manipulated, and what can happen when we’re willing to do anything for a cause.” —Atlantic.com
"Deeply engrossing."—PBS Books
“Remarkable…Every page blooms with sensuous language…These are characters in quiet crisis, burning, above all, to know themselves, and Kwon leads them, confidently, to an enthralling end.”—Paris Review
“A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance. I've said it before, but now I'll shout it from the rooftops: R. O. Kwon is the real deal.”
—Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Florida
“Every explosive requires a fuse. That’s R. O. Kwon’s novel, a straight, slow-burning fuse. To read her novel is to follow an inexorable flame coming closer and closer to the object it will detonate—the characters, the crime, the story, and, ultimately, the reader.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees
“The Incendiaries probes the seductive and dangerous places to which we drift when loss unmoors us. In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable.”
—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
"Absolutely electric, something new in the firmament. Everyone should read this book."
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
“A swift, sensual novel about the unraveling of a collegiate relationship and its aftermath. Kwon writes gracefully about the spiritual insecurities of millennials.”
—Karan Mahajan, author of The Association of Small Bombs
“A classic love triangle between two tormented college students and God. The Incendiaries brings us, page by page, from quiet reckonings with shame and intimacy to a violent, grand tragedy. In a conflagration of lyrical prose, R. O. Kwon skillfully evokes the inherent extremism of young love."
—Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
“An impressive, assured debut about the hope for personal and political revolution and all the unexpected ways it flickers out. Kwon has vital things to say about the fraught times we live in.”
—Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
“A profound, intricate exploration of how grief and lost faith and the vulnerable storm of youth can drive people to irrevocable extremes, told with a taut intensity that kept me up all night. R.O. Kwon is a thrilling writer, and her splendid debut is unsettled, irresistible company.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and Find Me
About the Author
- ASIN : B077CSDFGP
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (July 31, 2018)
- Publication date : July 31, 2018
- Language : English
- File size : 1333 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 222 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #293,912 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
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The story needed SO much more. A little insight into the cult might have helped (it's basically ridiculous and its appeal to the main character is not even a little believable). A few more characters, too (there are basically two, the narrator and the main character, presumably a stand-in for the author). And above all just a few deep breaths and some relaxation of the narrative. It feels like it's been revised -- and boiled down -- so far it's completely lost its flavors, like a sauce being reduced so far on the stove as to become sludge.
It's not that the author isn't talented; she clearly is. She pops in a nice writerly image or two here and there (mostly, as is frustratingly the case with many young authors for some reason, related to sex or food) but many others don't work at all. Her prose is clipped and rhythmic (I'd say almost Hemingway-esque, except for all the colorful characters, and, well, plot in his work). But it sails along and she gets her point across. She's willing to take on big topics, for sure.
But by the time you roll through the pointedly unsatisfying finish, the book has long since turned into a slog. And it's a bitter slog at that. The author's take on her characters and their deeply troubled lives is quite cynical, not at all generous. An awful lot of the brief quota of words she's allowed herself are devoted to ugly, flamboyant descriptions of Christianity, at least in its more cult-ish manifestations, which seems to be her main idea. But she doesn't allow her characters to be much more than narcissistic tools to that purpose. She doesn't create a plausible attraction to the cult for them, anything more than a cardboard cutout for the cult leader, nor any resolution after the fact. None of the characters are interesting or engaging to the reader. This is a book, one feels, very much about the author and not her creation.
It doesn't help that perspective changes suddenly from paragraph to paragraph, sometimes in 3rd person, sometimes 1st person, which is always jarring. But that's pretty minor. I do hope the author writes again; I'd definitely read it. But this too-baked, too-self-involved little book was not worth the effort.
The story is told primarily from the POV of Phoebe's boyfriend, Will, a hopelessly muddled POV due to his love for Phoebe, who is a very troubled young woman. He spends much of his time trying to make sense of Phoebe, an exercise in futility, especially since he is at least as emotionally stunted and given to narcissism as she is.
I just never could get myself to liking -- to caring about -- anybody in this story, except maybe for Phoebe's gay best friend Julian. Even he, though her confidante, is not exempt from her relationship-sabotaging behavior.
The prose is flowery, beautifully so in one paragraph, irritatingly so in the next.
We never really get an insider's look at "Jejah," John Leal's religious group, mostly just conjecture and glimpses, especially through the last third of the short novel, where the group's fanaticism takes flight. Most of what we know is from Will's voice, an outsider trying to see through the glass darkly.
That, to me, was a real problem. John Leal may well have been the most interesting character in the story, but we know nothing about him, really, but hearsay and conjecture.
What really disappointed me was the lack of character development around Leal, the charismatic leader of the cult (Jejah) that Phoebe gets entangled with. Unfortunately, there really is very little depth Kwon creates around Leal and the cult. While the tension that develops between Will and Phoebe as she gets further involved with Jejah is deftly handled, Kwon keeps Leal far more mysterious and it left me wanting for a deeper sense of how he managed to get Phoebe under his spell.
Ultimately, I came away satisfied by "The Incendiaries", but disappointed at what could have been.
Top reviews from other countries
I think the novel was somewhat on the short side to fulfil the maximum impact as there was certainly more potential to dig deeper into some of the various themes.
I would have preferred to have seen more development of the cult and it's leader John but the writing itself and the relationship between Will and Phoebe was impressive.
A solid 4 stars and I will certainly be keen to see what Ms Kwon does next!