The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
A Novel

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Sometimes Kwon's style can get a bit too doggedly lyrical, but she's deft at moving the plot toward its explosive climax.
-NPR

Synopsis

"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 powerful, darkly glittering novel about violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

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.
 

About R. O. Kwon

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R. O. Kwon is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing is published or forthcoming in The Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, 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, she has lived most of her life in the United States.
 
Published July 31, 2018 by Riverhead Books. 224 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Incendiaries
All: 4 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 3

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Jul 27 2018

Kwon could have picked up the pace in some of her sections. Otherwise it is difficult to fault this powerful debut, which explores complex issues in a remarkably assured way.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Ilana Masad on Aug 09 2018

...but ultimately, as much as they yearn for it, none of the novel’s central characters really deserve easy absolution. And yet the beautiful writing and nuanced storytelling invites compassion; such is the power of Kwon’s narrative.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Jean Zimmerman on Aug 02 2018

Capturing the intensity of the groves of academe might require this kind of elevated puffery, but at times the meat is hard to stomach. Still, Kwon delivers a poignant and powerful look into the millenial mindset. It can be rocky, but it can also rock.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Aug 01 2018

Sometimes Kwon's style can get a bit too doggedly lyrical, but she's deft at moving the plot toward its explosive climax.

Read Full Review of The Incendiaries: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR
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