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Duplex: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Davis's previous novels—most recently The Thin Place—blur the lines between magic and the mundane, and in this otherworldly novel those borders are eroded, with oddly mixed results. At first glance, Miss Vicks's grade-school class seems normal enough: there's delicate Mary, hyperactive Eddie, would-be writer Janice, and rich-kid Walter. But Walter is also a sorcerer, dealing in souls, who seduces Mary away from Eddie. And their suburban street, caught in the mysterious Space Drift, seems to eschew the laws of physics. The new neighbors are robots; Miss Vicks walks her dog through a dreamscape; Mary's child, Blue-Eyes, may be a monster; and the beach where Janice plays is home to Aquanauts, strange sea creatures with eyes as large and lustrous as plums. The book is less a novel than a dream, less populated by characters than by fantasy variations, less an experiment in genre than chaos, and Davis can't be faulted for her ambition, nor for prose that makes the sky seem like something you've never seen and makes robots' speech utterly quotidian. But where there is no gravity, there can be little pressure, and the result feels somewhat weightless. For all Davis's virtuosity, readers may have a hard time getting a grip on the story. (Sept. 3)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Characters do occupy duplexes in the latest mind-bending novel from the ever-provocative Davis (The Thin Place, 2006). But because this is a wildly imaginative tale of dualities, the seemingly simple concept of “duplex” is, like blown glass, superheated and stretched into astonishing shapes and dimensions. Humans and robots live together on an orderly suburban street. The robots look human by day but turn back into little needle-like entities at night. Large gray rabbits are everywhere. Miss Vicks, a teacher, regularly walks her dachshund and sometimes finds herself traversing a bizarrely morphing landscape. Everyone adores the neighborhood sweethearts, pretty Mary and baseball star Eddie; then strange and sinister things happen to them in encounters with a man known as Sorcerer. An older girl bewitches the younger girls with alarming stories involving a prophecy about a half-human, half-robot child and a catastrophic flood. Shrewd, wizardly, archly funny, and emotionally fluent Davis recasts fairy tales, warps time and space, illuminates the inner dynamics of robots, takes us to the beach and a creepy girls’ boarding school, and subtly envisions the perils global warming will bring. The result is an intricately fashioned, wryly stylized, through-the-looking-glass novel of forewarning about the essence of being human, endangered souls and “ancestral memory,” and how stories keep us afloat. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976538
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard about this book while listening to a review on NPR and immediately bought it. At first it seemed odd-- as if I was reading about someone's dream- and not a good dream. However, as I continued reading I realized that the writer's imagination had created an amazingly vivid world populated by more than interesting humans and non-humans who responded to their environment in a strangely almost docile way. As soon as I finished the book I knew I had to immediately read it again -- and it was twice as interesting in the second reading. I'd recommend it.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Matthew on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Davis' work since I read 'The Thin Place' a handful of years ago. It gave me reason to venture backwards into her work. Davis crafts a beautiful story, but crafts even better sentences. The newest novel, 'Duplex,' reads almost like a collection of short stories. One is not always certain they were meant to ever connect, but that doesn't change the pacing. The novel speaks to the myths of our youth, the gossip on our neighbors, and the stories we tell ourselves to give us cause to get out of bed in the morning. Over the course of one day, six or so hours, I allowed myself to get lost in this world of sorcerers, fairies, horse women, and The Rain of Beads. One of my favorite books this year.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jack M. Walter on January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Davis succeeds in doing what many other writers try and fail to accomplish. It is very trendy nowadays to write novels and stories that have a hint of the surreal or the absurd yet play out as realistic fiction otherwise. Most fiction such as this comes out weak, as if they were simply just writing exercises, but Davis nails it.

Duplex is a fantastic alternate-world novel with connecting threads that resonate in our cultural consciousness. Themes such as the female condition, growing up, fertility, love and the human tendency to create stories and legends to explain life and experience. The language here is seductive and lyrical, and although the reader tries to make concrete sense of the story, he is left with more of a sense of the eternal and magical elements of life than anything. Quite brilliantly done, and it's a must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on April 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
While I was reading this my wife asked me if I was enjoying it and I said, "I don't know." Having finished it some months ago, I find it lingering in my mind, like it's a puzzle I'm still trying to solve, which tips me over the fence into positive feelings.

I can say it's unlike anything else I've read recently. I don't know if it's deranged or inventive or what, but it's a deeply unsettling book. I can see why so many reviewers react negatively, but I think this says more about the readers than the book. It's definitely not for everyone, but it's tough to dismiss it entirely. For those looking for something adventurous and unusual (and I increasingly am), this is worth a try.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By gw on November 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
About a quarter way through this book, I was ready to to give up on it. But it was the coldest day of the season and I had a warm fire at my feet, so I continued reading all the way through. I'm glad I did.

The story weaves a sort of spell reminiscent of "magic realism." My all-time favorite paragraph in fiction is the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude," and I sensed a similarity, fleshed out and expanded as the doomsday proposition of another, even more strangely imagined, place and time.

In Duplex, dreams, science fiction, mythology, and philosophies collide with the ordinary and mundane, as if the collective contents of memory were dumped out of the unconscious and cobbled together in new ways. It wasn't so much the prose, or the characters, or the plot line that enthralled me. It was more like immersion in the enchantment of a multi-facted fairy tale, skewed and off, befitting the random information of our times.

Duplex is a unique work of art, and I will look for more by this author. My highest praise is that I wish I hadn't read it yet, so I could read it all over again for the first time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Kunz on November 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wanted more out of this book by the time I got to the ending, and only realized that it was because this began as a series of short stories. It's a strange world, sort of Alice in Wonderland-like, but dreamy and full of interesting impossibilities to make you think.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book dwells on that lovely, liminal place between dreams and awakening. This is the neighborhood of your childhood and your memories. If you are prepared to honor the life you glimpse from the corner of your eyes, this book will feel like home. Those "others" who live amongst us find" the nape of the neck is especially easy to see through- that's why they love it when we bow our heads." And really, who did not have that strange family who didn't seem to be in our world; perhaps they were robots or wizards. Most entrancing to me is the journey Miss Perkins took as she her life. Perhaps we do in fact only die when the last child is left untold about us. In any case, this book allows us to remember in a different way, and to me that is a good thing.
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25 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J. Erbes on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read a glowing review of Duplex in our local paper and checked it out from the library with the hope that I might share some sort of cosmic connection with Kathryn Davis since I have always enjoyed reading speculative fiction and Ms. Davis and I were both born in 1946. It would appear that our planets are aligned -- so to speak.

I previously wrote a tongue-in-cheek review of Duplex that suggested, purely in jest, that Ms. Davis could have gotten the inspiration for her book by sitting around a campfire recently with all of her girl friends from middle school, now all around 67 years of age, while they shared their creative middle-school sexual fantasies with each other under the influence of hallucinogens, all the while consuming vast quantities of s'mores. Yes, I made this up. I came up with this obviously made up story because I couldn't explain passages like this, from early in the book: "Her plan [i.e. the main protagonist, Mary] was to wait for Eddie in the bathroom the way she did at school, with her skirt hiked up around her waist and her underpants down around her ankles."

Seriously? Her knickers down around her ankles? Please tell me you are not serious, .....please...?

The book includes much of this, plus: big bunny rabbits all over the place, scary guys in big cars, lots of those Creatures from the Black Lagoon, those cute little flying robots from Batteries Not Included, that monster kid Chuckie, morphing landscapes, and yes, {shudder}, dachshunds!
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