The Incendiaries

The Incendiaries

3.24 (20,357 ratings by Goodreads)
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'Absolutely electric' Garth Greenwell

'A major talent' Financial Times

'Reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Secret History' New Yorker

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall fall in love at 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 from Bible college.

But a charismatic former student draws Phoebe into his cult - an extremist group with secretive ties to North Korea. 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, discovering how far we can go when we lose what we love.

'An important new writer' The Times

'R. O. Kwon is the real deal' Lauren Groff
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Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 126 x 196 x 20mm | 192g
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 9780349011882
  • 221,214

Review Text

Fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Secret History New Yorker
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Review quote

Fairy-tale quality reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Secret History * New Yorker * The Incendiaries is a book of careful feints - the emphases in the story never fall where you expect, but Kwon is always in total control . . . a startlingly assured book by an important new writer * Guardian, Book of the Day * A pulsating, hypnotic debut novel . . . Kwon's subject is not so much love and betrayal - though both forces are
presented as elementally destructive - as the power of religion, and the grieving that engulfs those
who lose faith. She understands what a believer will do to retain her sense of belonging, to never be
lonely again . . . The Incendiaries packs a disruptive charge, and introduces RO Kwon as a major talent * Financial Times * What an intriguing novel. Told in spare, revealing prose from the three central characters' points of view, it makes the reader look again at faith, fanaticism and identity * Daily Mail * The debut novel from the Korean-American writer RO Kwon starts with a bomb attack carried out by an
extremist Christian cult. Will Kendall knows his former girlfriend, Phoebe Lin, was one of the perpetrators; what plays out in this short, sharp tale is the story of why . . . When Phoebe is approached by John Leal, a barefoot preacher who claims to have been a prisoner in a North Korean gulag, she believes he offers the purpose and discipline she has lost. But Will, struggling to come to terms with the loss of his Christian faith, sees through Leal. This triumvirate of flawed characters share the narrative focus as events spiral towards their bloody denouement -
and Kwon's spare, scalpel-like writing makes Phoebe's tumble into Leal's crazed vision utterly convincing * The Times * R. O. Kwon's characters leave you unsure of where reality stands in a narrative that is beautifully disorienting. As each retreats further into their own mind, the language becomes more jarring, and the logic harder to follow, in a way that mimics the real-life terror of obsession * Literary Hub * 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 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 Religion, politics and love collide in this slim but powerful novel reminiscent of Donna Tart's The Secret History, with menace and mystery lurking in every corner * People (Book of the Week) * 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 is 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 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 Radiant . . . a dark, absorbing story of how first love can be as intoxicating and dangerous as religious fundamentalism . . . * New York Times Book Review * This debut novel is absolutely electric, something new in the firmament. Everyone should read this book -- Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You Faith and its furies lie at the heart of The Incendiaries, R. O. Kwon's disarmingly propulsive debut . . . It's a combustive tale about the human compulsion to latch onto something bigger than ourselves, no matter the cost * Vogue * A stunning debut, The Incendiaries is a story of interpersonal and religious devotion . . . It's a discomforting yet thoroughly engrossing read about processing trauma and changing ideals at the precipice of adulthood and the overwhelming power of conviction. After this impressive introduction of her work to the world, we're excited to see where Kwon takes us in the future * Marie Claire * The Incendiaries is the most buzzed about debut of the summer, as it should be . . . [it] is a sharp, little novel as hard to ignore as a splinter in your eye . . . In a nation still so haunted by the divine promise, on the cusp of ever-more contentious debates about abortion and other intrinsically spiritual issues, The Incendiaries arrives at precisely the right moment * Washington Post * 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 exquisitely written novel about love, loss and faith taken to extremes * Refinery29 *
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About R. O. Kwon

R. O. Kwon is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Time, Vice, BuzzFeed, the San Francisco Chronicle, Playboy, Noon, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Omi International, the Steinbeck Center, and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. Born in South Korea, Kwon has lived most of her life in the United States.
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Rating details

20,357 ratings
3.24 out of 5 stars
5 9% (1,930)
4 30% (6,008)
3 40% (8,153)
2 17% (3,487)
1 4% (779)
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