With Duplex, Kathryn Davis has crafted an origami flower. It is evident that that there is one cohesive piece holding everything together, but that knowledge alone doesn't help you to see the trick behind each intricate fold. This is one of those books you just have to read — any attempt at summarizing the plot can't communicate the mesmerizing way past and future are woven together; any description of Miss Vicks, or Eddie, or the Sorcerer, or the Aquanauts can't do justice to the delicate way these characters unfold.
Duplex takes place in a world that is disarming because it is partially our own. You will recognize the suburban streets and the duplexes that line them, but you won't recognize the scows that float in the sky or the robots who look like people and live in Number 37.
The magic of this book lies within the very fact that it's difficult to tell what's happening, in the way you need to reread a sentence because it contains something very foreign nestled inside known elements. Davis constantly lulls you into thinking you know what this book is about, but the delight is in discovering the way the characters' and their stories fit together. In the same way I started out rereading a sentence, I began to reread whole paragraphs and chapters. The only sense in which I finished this book is that I was ready to begin it again — Duplex is a puzzle not meant to be solved on the first try. Duplex is a little island of magic, a fortress of the unknown masquerading in a familiar guise that calls you not only to come inside, but to stay a while.
Even though I loved Duplex, it was unfortunately a read that I blundered. I read it during my commute, in eight minute chunks while I was being jostled by fellow commuters and balancing multiple bags and sometimes not quite awake. I wished I had dedicated a few unbroken stretches of time to settle into the charm and disquiet, and didn't have to listen to the announcement of the train stops while I read or stop mid-sentence to jump off the train and launch straight into a workday.
I think Duplex is a read you should invest some quality time in—the result is one you won't regret. And for that reason I have paired with it Smitten Kitchen's Pancetta, White Bean and Chard Pot Pies. This recipe is a serious time commitment — about an hour and 30 minutes of prep and 35 minutes of cooking — but is worth every second. The buttery lids are divine and the filling is perfect for a cold winter evening. So invest some time, and then reap the delicious rewards.
PANCETTA, WHITE BEAN AND CHARD POT PIES
For the lids
- 2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
- 6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
For the lids
In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the fl our and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
For full ingredients list and directions, visit Smitten Kitchen.