The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

First lines 2. Publisher: Penguin Random House USA (Imprint: Riverhead) and Virago (UK)    3. University of Toronto Students for Life [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons     4. Building set on fire [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I liked this book.
  A Christian cult leader, a Bible school dropout, and a vulnerable young girl. What an inflammatory triangle.

Quotes from the book:

  • “John Leal told us we’d have to attend a protest in Manhattan, a pro-life march.”
  • “No, I didn’t believe in God’s plan. Still, I liked listening to him talk. It had so little to do with the life I’d known. I kept thinking I’d go to one last meeting, then quit. I went again.”
  • “John’s said that Christ is with us, not beyond, in pain. To recall those I’ve hurt, to catalog the times I’ve failed. is also to learn how to forgive.”
  • “This is where I start having trouble, Phoebe,” says Will in the first chapter. “Buildings fell. People died. You once told me I hadn’t even tried to understand. So, here I am, trying.”

Plot summary:

Will, a Bible school dropout meets Phoebe, haunted by a past tragedy. She is drawn into a religious group led by John Leal, who exhorts them to demonstrate against abortion. The story details the relationships as they form and develop over time, and how things spiral out of control.

Readers Guide Excerpt online;   Author’s website


  • The raw materials might be there for a powerful book, but The Incendiaries is an overhyped debut that lacks a fuse.  Full review: Irish Times
  • “The Incendiaries is an extraordinary novel in so many ways: the finely hewn beauty of its language, the layering of its themes, the ways that it reveals truth through narrative unreliability, and the remarkable way it makes one uncomfortable with one’s sympathies.” Full review: Chicago Review of Books

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