By all appearances, the setting of Duplex seems familiar: a suburban street where middle aged teacher Miss Vicks lives alongside her students, school sweethearts Mary and Eddie, with her childlike dachshund. But this suburb is folded in time and place, dominated by a sorcerer and populated by both humans and robots. In the blurred lines where fantasy and reality meet, Kathryn Davis has found her space.
My first inclination after finishing Duplex’s slim 208 pages was to turn the book over and start again, a luxury I’ve not often had with books that toy with my mind because of their length. Even on a first read, what becomes clear is that, despite its small size, there are endless pieces to pull apart and examine within the pages of this novel. The figures Davis creates appear more as vignettes than directly connected characters, many with just the slightest threads binding them together. Combined with the overall dreamlike feel of the book, there seems to be a single unifying piece missing – though, that may be the intention.
What cannot be overlooked is Davis’s incredible ability to spin together a sentence and bring her world to life in such a small space. Duplex is an ambitious novel, best for readers who don't mind an eccentric mix of characters or working out puzzling bits of ambiguity.