Dreamlike novel rewards readers

Published: February 23 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:01 am in

The experience of reading “Duplex” (Graywolf Press, 200 pages, $24), Kathryn Davis’ new novel, is akin to dreaming. While you’re inside the story, its threads make a certain kind of sense even as they unravel in odd and unexpected ways. Once you emerge from the tale, however, it is difficult to give a coherent account of the story.

At the heart of the story are Eddie and Mary. He’s a baseball player; she’s the girl who loves him. One day while they are children he disappears into the car of a sorcerer. When he returns, something essential is different.

The same could be said of the world Davis creates in “Duplex.” It’s much like our world, but it’s also changed in essential ways. Robots live down the street. The boundaries of time are fluid. Souls and bodies take unexpected journeys. Scows patrol the skies.

Davis’ prose is often challenging and hypnotic: “Something happened. The sky was deep black like at midnight but with a sun in it. The bladed leaves of the plants, the twigs of the sycamores, the tree trunks, and the whole world radiated from where he lay curled on his side looking out the arched window, everything just beginning to settle back into stillness after a period of terrible agitation, as if for a while nothing had remained itself but had spun into shining bits and the bits themselves had gotten mixed into him of trees and plants and sky.”

I found myself caught up in Davis’ dreamlike world. “Duplex” asks quite a bit of the reader, but it rewards those who give themselves over to Davis’ peculiarly beautiful novel.

Rob Cline is a writer and published author, marketing director for University of Iowa’s Hancher and director of literary events for New Bo Books, a division of Prairie Lights.

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