The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Will, an ex-evangelical college student, andPhoebe, with whom he falls in love–Phoebe drawn into Jejah, a cult that is vaguely connected to North Korea. I had two problems with the book. The first one–which may not be totally fair–is that the jacket copy says, “When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears.” But that happens on page 170, our of only 210. What seems like it should be the set-up for the book (the author of the jacket copy certainly thought so) is actually its climax. The run-up is long, the part that seems more interesting very compressed. The second problem is that I just never believed it. I think if you’re going to write something kind of sensational, you need either to include enough detail to make it eminently real and plausible, or to write with an unwavering authority. Kwon does neither. Moments of drama are glossed over so smoothly you could miss them, motivations are incomplete or insufficient, and the facts just don’t seem tethered to the reality of what would happen in this situation. Oh well.

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