BOOK REVIEW: "The Incendiaries" Twists Memories, Perception, and Truth [Preview]

R. O. Kwon's The Incendiaries has that goopy, impressionistic textured prose found in novels like The Girls by Emma Cline and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (whose celebratory blurb naturally graces the cover of my advance reader's copy). The descriptive storytelling action is generously mixed with flashes of introspection and pure passages of elegant language, which smartly serves to establish the unreliability of our given narrator, Will Kendall.

Memory, sense perception, and fact all roll together, and we have to tease them apart to get at some version of the truth. After all, when we remember important events, events that crushed us and rendered us raw in some way, our sense memory is stronger than the minute detailed steps of our procedural linear memory: that flush on our cheeks, the ripe feeling of shame, lingers long after we forget the perfect A to Z of what happened to make us react this way.
The Incendiaries is less a story than a collection of these impressions and imprinted moments, feeling at times like an exercise in teasing out the most abstracted and poetical way of writing about something, often letting any potential sense of narrative propulsion fall to the wayside. It can be roughly sketched out as boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl joins cult, boy loses girl, its crystallized story beats coming almost like a screenplay. But actually reading it means often stepping back from that twisted, lush prose to remember than the story itself is fairly simple, albeit rendered in a non-clichéd way.

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