As a child, I grew up in a very religious household. I attended services 2-3 times a week easily, church camps most summers, and even participated in after school activities through youth group. I thought life would take me through this path until the day I died. Though I still consider myself a believer in God, my views were forever changed in my teen years. I was not a popular kid, I did not make friends easily and some even would say I was pretty “nerdy”. I sought out to have true friends and family-like relationships within my church to fill the void that I could not fill in school. This was until, at a very young age, I realized how hypocritical the people were around me. I was taught that you were to love every person in the way that God loves you but that’s not what I experienced. I was singled out, made fun of and treated as an outcast in church as much as I was at school. The church that I had been attending for most of my life was able to treat me as if I didn’t belong and that really stung. I slowly began to stop attending services until it suddenly turned into years of not going. Thinking about my experience in the church has left me questioning my faith more than I ever expected I would.
With that being said, I definitely was able to relate to Will’s character in The Incendiaries. One of the things that really stood out to me was how Will talked about how he used to be with his faith, being one hundred and ten percent committed, and how it was a huge part of his being up until he prayed his last prayer for God to show him some type of sign that he is real and from then on, his belief burned down into nothing. I was able to understand the complete flip his life took in religious views as I too, have dealt with the same experience.
On the other hand, I felt that Pheobe’s character was completely wild when it comes to religious views. Pheobe spent her childhood being a daughter that did what was expected of her; playing the piano. She seemed like she had a moderately laid-back childhood aside from the expectations her mother had on her musical skills, up until she caused a car accident that resulted in her mother’s death. After the losses of both her mother and piano, it’s understandable that Pheobe would have a huge void in her life that she needed to fill and that she sought out religion to fill it. I was able to relate to her character in this sense because it brought back the memories of my childhood self, trying to find a place to fit in and true friends through religion. What really threw me through a loop was the fact that Pheobe did not just seek religion to fill this void but she became obsessed with it, while Will was able to see what was really happening within the cult.
Though both characters were vastly different in religious views, it is easy to understand why Kwon chose to write them this way. Being able to relate to both characters made the read much more interesting as I was able to see different perspectives on religion and compare them to my own and in turn, know that when I think about religion in the way that I do, I am not alone.