The Silk Road will be thought of as a difficult novel, a challenging read, and it might be wise to set aside any desire for palliative care and take up the raucous and demanding work of dying (or living) ... We forget to laugh with writers whose work scares us, or challenges us, or makes us heft up the huge Webster’s Third International onto the couch too many times because not even the internet is giving us a definition of that word—or not a good one, not with cognates...and there are passages in The Silk Road of great humor and delicious bawdiness ... The Silk Road is an act of profound and uproarious consciousness in the face of so much that is involuntary and inescapable: the workings and failings of our physical bodies ... The Silk Road is...a handhold in the flood of time, a not particularly sluggish eddy, but an eddy nonetheless: 'Swing low, Sweet chariot, Coming for to carry me home.' Go with the metaphors, entertain them all, that’s the life we have, language, our parole. That chariot ain’t here yet.
... gorgeous and confounding ... The Silk Road reads like a mystery novel at a slant ... [Reading the book feels like being] stretched and suspended over the abyss, jumping from one place (the labyrinth) to another (the Aubrac region of France), having the past folded into the present until you can’t tell them apart, seeing characters blend and blur ... Davis’s descriptive gifts are abundant ... Radiant and endlessly shifting, sensitive to outer form and inner reality, wildly and beautifully impenetrable: that’s as good a paraphrase of this splendid, poetic novel of ideas as you’ll get.
... even more metaphysical and experimental than [the author's previous works] ... The Silk Road merits being read twice, not because there is more joy to be found in the language once you know where the story is going but because there is something else to be found once you surrender to a journey without a destination ... Davis’s language has been compared to music, and though she can craft a lyrical sentence... much of the writing here reads more like an oblique spiritual handbook ... The Silk Road is unlikely to make its way onto any best-seller lists. And yet, for those willing to get lost in its spiritual haze, there is a uniquely un-2019 pleasure to be found: a meditative bewilderment that just might cede to enlightenment.
Kathryn Davis’ works blend the familiar with the disquieting, the archetypal with the experimental. The Silk Road takes this tendency to its apex ... 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.
Davis is a master of mind-whirling, arabesque fiction. This puzzle of pieces of time past, present, and future is an alternately funny and wistful tale of excursions across forbidding, pandemic-afflicted landscapes ... Davis has created a spooky, slippery, provocative, and elegiac fable in which amusingly fractious and poignantly imperiled pilgrims press on in a blasted world, destination unknown.
... The Silk Road is also a feat of flashing enchantment. I read it in a state I can only describe as baffled wonder, and no small part of the wonder came from how much I enjoyed the novel considering the fact that much of the time I had no idea what was going on ... The Silk Road is a mystery for sure, just not the kind that Agatha Christie ever wrote. I can be an impatient reader when I sense a writer is being obscure for obscurity’s sake, but Davis has an oddly humble approach for someone whose work is so ambitious ... Perhaps if she were more grandiose (or, let’s face it, male) she’d have a large following of fanboys intent on decoding her every allusion and device, like Thomas Pynchon’s. As it is, she has a devout but tiny band of admirers. Join us.
Davis’s new novel, The Silk Road, continues her exploration of the strange, but if anything, it’s even bolder than her earlier books. Rather than ease the reader into the extraordinary by way of the ordinary... The Silk Road dives right into the extraordinary from the first paragraph ... I have, so far, read The Silk Road three times and can already see that I am going to have to buy another copy—I’ve messed mine up with so many marginal scrawls.
... complex and cerebral ... The Silk Road is not an easy novel, but it is compelling and smart, full of big ideas and still focused on tiny details. Mesmerizing and dreamy, it warrants a second, even a third, reading.
... has the feel of an allegory, one set in a dismal, dripping place ... But this book functions with only the most tenuous sense of a unifying plot and with the barest character development. Davis’ imagery, however, transcends the other elements ... The story never gets clearer, but then Davis, who teaches during the spring semester at Washington University, never makes it easy for the reader. For those who like a puzzle, however, The Silk Road conceals rewards.
The challenges of this kind of approach are formidable, but the tenacity of Davis’ language, her spellbinding images and spellbound objects, the fragile beauty of the worlds she creates in the moment of their destruction reward an open-minded reader’s labors ... A book that stuns, almost literally, with its force and its humility. A tender book. A savage book. A once-in-a-lifetime story.