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The Silk Road

A Novel
Kathryn Davis

The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to arise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook remember the paths that brought them there—paths on which they still seem to be traveling.

The Silk Road also begins in rivalrous skirmishing for favor, in the protected Eden of childhood, and it ends in the harrowing democracy of mortality, in sickness and loss and death. Kathryn Davis’s sleight of hand brings the past, present, and future forward into brilliant coexistence; in an endlessly shifting landscape, her characters make their way through ruptures, grief, and apocalypse, from existence to nonexistence, from embodiment to pure spirit.

Since the beginning of her extraordinary career, Davis has been fascinated by journeys. Her books have been shaped around road trips, walking tours, hegiras, exiles: and now, in this triumphant novel, a pilgrimage. The Silk Road is her most explicitly allegorical novel and also her most profound vehicle; supple and mesmerizing, the journey here is not undertaken by a single protagonist but by a community of separate souls—a family, a yoga class, a generation. Its revelations are ravishing and desolating.

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A spellbinding novel about transience and mortality, by one of the most original voices in American literature

About the Author

Kathryn  Davis
Credit: Anne Davis
Kathryn Davis is the author of eight novels, including The Silk Road and Duplex. She is the senior fiction writer on the faculty of the writing program at Washington University.
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Upcoming Events

Unrealism: The True Art of Fantastic Fiction at AWP 2019

Oregon Convention Center in Portland, ORview map
A panel with Kathryn Davis, Mark Doten, Carmen Maria Machado, and Lucy Corin. Moderated by Ethan Nosowsky. Location: Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2.

Kathryn Davis appearing as part of LA Times Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books in El Segundo, CAview map
"Calamity and Chaos," a panel with Leland de la Durantaye, Abby Geni, and Jordy Rosenberg. Moderated by Doug Dutton. Location: Hoffman Hall. This event requires a free ticket (available April 7).


  • “With nothing less than the human condition on its mind, The Silk Road works in archetype and allegory to produce a slim (not even 150 pages!) but resounding book unlike any you’ve ever read.”Entertainment Weekly
  • “Davis draws inspiration from poet and philosopher Lucretius, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Olaus Magnus, who is known for the sea monsters in his Renaissance maps—but the magic in this mysterious, meditative and questing novel is all her own.”BBC Culture
  • “This novel isn't a puzzle to be solved; rather, like a reading of Tarot cards (another motif), Davis is channeling the symbolically rich and evocative onto the page. No two readers may interpret this book the same way, or even close to it — but these unexpected and unruly juxtapositions carry plenty of emotional power and philosophical provocation.”Star Tribune
  • “Davis renders [the siblings] with heartbreaking perfection. While her characters' names and biographies are obscured, she digs into particular moments with such profound specificity that they are brilliantly alive to the reader.”—Shelf Awareness
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