‘The Incendiaries’ explodes from the page

“Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” — George Santayana

By nature humans are curious, we have questions and because we can’t possibly know all the answers, we take refuge in faith. Through our chosen belief systems we find solace for that which we can’t explain, but what happens when faith bleeds into fanaticism? Our latest read examines what happens when a belief system is distorted for sinister means.

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

Like the explosion that leaps from the first page, R.O. Kwon’s debut novel “The Incendiaries” captures readers, conveying the story behind the bomb through the rubble and remains of Phoebe and Will’s relationship.

Told through the perspectives of Will, Phoebe and John Leal, Kwon turns back the clock to try to make sense of the destruction. Will is a former born-again Christian who lost his faith before meeting the dynamic and grieving Phoebe at their university. While at school, John Leal, a man who claims to have turned to God while trapped in a North Korean gulag, pulls the two into his Christian group, Jejah. Will has his doubts about the group but follows his beloved Phoebe into the cult.

Kwon’s novel fizzles with a slow burn, pulling readers into Will and Phoebe’s relationship with the secrets they keep from each other and the pain they both can’t express to the other. The underlying fanaticism and violence pull at the couple as their relationship flounders.

Written without traditional dialogue, Kwon’s novel sweeps the reader along with the characters’ monologues, pulling them in deeper to this arresting tale.

From the book jacket…

“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.”

If you enjoy…

Readers who found themselves captivated by Kwon’s writing might also enjoy Sally Roony’s “Normal People.” Roony’s novel follows two characters that can’t quite seem to escape the magnetic pull they have over each other.