Excerpt from The Incendiaries by R O. Kwon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Incendiaries

A Novel

by R O. Kwon

The Incendiaries by R O. Kwon X
The Incendiaries by R O. Kwon
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2018, 224 pages
    Jul 2019, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

You pass the cup around until it's finished, she said. The last person to drink upends it on his head. He spins it while people sing—

She fell silent, gaze fixed to my left. I turned, but I noticed nothing unusual. Lilies splayed open on the windowsill, wilting stars. A tall man waited at the stoplight.

I thought I saw him again, she said.


His name's John Leal—do you know him?

I don't think so.

No, it's nothing, she said. I just, I keep thinking I've spotted him, but—

Who is this?

Flustered, she tried to explain. Bix lit the candle, and she thanked him. It took a few tries, but, at last, I gathered she'd gone to a club the other night, downtown. She stepped outside, phone in hand, to call a taxi. Someone else was also there, leaning against the wall. When she hung up, he hailed Phoebe by name. She didn't recognize him, but figured she was to blame. They'd met. She'd forgotten. To be polite, she played along, as if she knew him, but he ignored the act. I'm John Leal, he said. You're Phoebe. I hoped I'd run into you. I thought of how to set it up, and look, here you are.

Then, he listed small facts about her life. Trivial details, but nothing he should have known. He handed a folded note to Phoebe. I'd love to see you again, he said. It's up to you, though. Call me when you're tired of wasting this life.

When you're tired of—huh, I said.

Isn't it strange? Phoebe said. Oh, also, he had no shoes on. I thought, at first, that friends might be playing a practical joke on me. But it's not much of a joke.

She lifted a glass to Bix. From the level above us, male voices united in song, a capella. I asked if she intended to get in touch with this John Leal. No, but she wished she'd asked how he knew what he did. She'd kept the note, she said, pulling a slip from her wallet. It was a plain, lined, ripping along the fold. In block letters, he'd printed his name. John Leal. I suggested she give him a call.


It's bothering you, I said. If you want, I'll help. I could see him with you.

Just then, a large man popped up behind Phoebe, sliding his hands across her eyes. Guess who, he said. He raised his arms. A full lilac robe spilled out from beneath his peacoat, a priest's white band at his throat. No, don't get up, he said. I've left Liesl outside in the cold, and I told her I wouldn't be a minute but hello, Phoebe, don't you look tip-top. Tell me if you like this outfit. One of Liesl's friends is hosting a themed night: come as you aren't.

Excerpted from The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon. Copyright © 2018 by R. O. Kwon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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