Duplex

Kathryn Davis, Author
Kathryn Davis. Graywolf, $24 (208p) ISBN 978-1-55597-653-8
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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)
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