Anyone else weirdly fascinated with cults? I know I'm not alone in the world because at least Georgia from My Favorite Murder is with me but how many of you book people are with me in thinking that cults are horribly interesting? Horrible because I mean they are tragic AF often, but I'm so interested in them.
In fact, Yelm, near where I live, has its very own cult! Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. The leader, J.Z. Knight (an old white lady), claims to channel Ramtha the Enlightened One - according to Wikipedia she even puts on an Indian accent when she channels him LOLOLOL. She runs a school out of Yelm. We've driven past many times, and you can't see in at all. The grounds are completely hidden with trees and there are security cameras everywhere. Creepy! They've been accused of using brainwashing and mind control. Ramtha's School does have a few celebrity followers, including Linda Evans and Salma Hayek. Hoping they don't track me down or do some Scientology shit for posting this - I mean I haven't said anything that hasn't been said and documented online before.
Why am I talking about this? Well, The Incendiaries is about a girl's eventual integration into a cult. It follows Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall, students at a prestigious university. Phoebe feels responsible for her mom's death but doesn't tell anyone. Instead, she bottles up her feelings. Will is a transfer from a religious school who has recently turned away from Christianity, even though his religion previously defined his entire life. Will doesn't have money, so he doesn't quite fit in with the rich student body, but he finds ways to make it work. Will and Phoebe meet at a party, and Will is enchanted with Phoebe. They start dating, but Will feels like he is powerless when Phoebe starts spending more and more time with a cult leader who knows her dad. She doesn't see that it's a cult, or maybe she does and doesn't want to believe it. The group bombs some buildings (not a spoiler btw - this happens right away in the book) and Will tries to understand how Phoebe got to this place.
I found this book enjoyable overall, but had a few qualms. I felt that it was somewhat overwritten to the point where I was confused about what was actually happening at times. Lots of metaphors and verbose descriptions made it hard to follow. I didn't feel deeply connected to the characters. It kind of felt like watching them through foggy glass. Weirdly, another book about a cult was similar in the overwrittenness - The Girls by Emma Cline - but that one was much worse. In The Incendiaries, it was tolerable and I was engaged enough to keep reading. I ended up putting down The Girls and I still don't understand how there was a bidding war between publishers over it.
I think if you liked The Girls, or if you're into cults, you might like The Incendiaries as well. And, thanks to Riverhead Books for sharing it with me.