Bookworm Update: Incendiary

I finished Incendiary Saturday night and I am still trying to process all of it. It is a very dark and graphic book that raises all kinds of issues associated with the post-9/11 world we live in today. The book is in the format of a letter to Osama Bin Laden written by a woman who’s husband and son are killed in a horrific terrorist attack on a London football stadium (as a side note, the London terrorist attacks in 2005 occurred the same day that this book was released, an awful coincidence). The protagonist is far from a lovable character. She is an unfaithful wife who continues to make bad decisions throughout the book as she slowly slips into insanity. In fact, none of the characters in the book are terribly likeable, which I believe was Cleaves’ point. I think he wanted to point out some of the flaws in Western society that people like Bin Laden latch onto, not to say that they justify terrorist attacks, but as a bridge to understanding them because we have to at least start to understand the reasoning if we are ever to defeat them. The most interesting theme to me that Cleaves raised in the book was the idea that the fear that grips people is far more debilitating to society than the actual attacks are. In the book, London becomes a police state, complete with a changed landscape, curfews, and police helicopters monitoring everything. People live in constant fear which creates chaos at the mere mention that another attack could occur. People literally lose their lives as a result of the chaos, and figuratively as the fear of the possibility of another attack takes away their freedom and life as they previously knew it and the mother slips into insanity . On the flip side, the book also talks about life returning to normal for so many people while the protagonists life is forever changed. It was a heartbreaking contrast, to see the lives of most changed a bit by the fear and changes to society, but the lives of a few shattered into a million unrecognizable pieces. It is an observation that rings true for our country as well as so many others. There was so much in this book to keep me thinking, and I’m sure I will continue to think about it for quite some time. I guess that’s why I like sad books. The happy ones just don’t work your mind in the same way! I would definitely recommend this one to anyone interested in a subject matter, but I would warn that it is dark, sad, and incredibly graphic. To me that isn’t a reason to avoid it, but I am much more interested in those kinds of books than the average Joe. I would say though that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a better book regarding the topic. That one is one of my all-time favorites and is a tad bit more uplifting.

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