Dispatched by their mother to learn why his estranged twin Gregory (or “Brock Jones, PhD,” as he’s known to fans of his bestselling self-help book Coffee, Black: or How Small Decisions Can Change Your Life Radically and for the Better, Forever) has disappeared — Stewart Detweiler drives 1,500 miles to find him hanging from a ceiling beam in their dead father’s lakeside A-frame. But instead of reporting his brother’s death, Stewart choses instead to become him. After all, Brock had everything to live for: wealth, fame, a huge audience for his bestselling books: all the things Stewart has craved. As Stewart sees it, he’s not taking his brother’s life; he’s saving it, donating—not a lung or an eye or a kidney—but his entire body that his worthier twin may live on; Stewart, in turn, will at last gain an audience for his novel-in-perpetual-progress (the ever-fluctuating plot of which bears an uncanny resemblance to this one). At first Stewart’s plan goes smoothly. But soon the motives behind his brother’s suicide emerge, pointing to sexual intrigue, extortion, and desperate measures taken with disastrous results.
Superficially a novel about twins, “Duplicity” weaves together the nature vs. nurture question; the art of writing; the inescapable bonds of family; jealousy and disappointment; identity, philosophy, quantum mechanics, and the dual nature of just about everything.
The excerpt, taken from early in the manuscript, describes how Stewart’s brother Greg came to write his bestselling book, Coffee, Black.
DUPLICITY has made the rounds with major publishers, a compendium of whose responses are gathered here for you:
“What a beguiling, ambitious and totally unique novel!” (Hanover)
“I was very excited about the book’s premise and the exploration of identity in such an action-packed and mystery-filled novel.” (FSG)
“This is phenomenally smart; I love the ambition and fun of the way this is built, the many doublings it plays with so skillfully, and the tenacity of the voice.” (Tin House)
“I really enjoyed Selgin’s exploration of duality and identity, and I turned pages eagerly to find out what would become of Stewart’s ill-considered plan to step into Brock’s life.” (Little Brown)
“This is such a strange and interesting book it’s kind of hard to talk about! The way he breaks the third wall is rather meta and adds an extra intriguing quality.” (Flatiron)
“I love the hook and the writing is fantastic.” (Putnam)
“I’ve really enjoyed reading and thinking about Peter’s immensely absorbing book, and discussing it with my colleagues here. He’s such a smart, engaging, and inventive writer—and so good at capturing the unexpected and the darkly funny, as well as the unnerving and the unsettling.” (Harper Collins)
“This is so smart and funny, just as I expected. Stewart is quite a character! Love his bold honesty, the ongoing dialogue with the reader, the attention to narrative rules.” (Catapult)
“This is such a dense and inventive book! Peter Selgin is obviously a brilliant mind, with a deep knowledge of novel conventions, and an admirable willingness to overturn them.” (Random House)
“What an unusual, alluring story. From the first page, there’s immediate suspense in the description of Stewart seeing ‘himself’ hanging dead in the house by the lake, and the “note to the reader” adds another layer of intrigue. I was impressed by the intricate, labyrinthine plot that Selgin has concocted, which raises some compelling questions about authenticity, nature versus nurture, fate, and artistic success.” (Norton)
“This is an ambitious, intriguing novel, and it’s clear he’s taken a lot of care in the crafting. I appreciate, too, the themes he’s circling through here—authenticity and the balance of art and self. They feel both timely and timeless.” (Houghton Mifflin)
“I admire Peter Selgin’s writing tremendously, and I’m in awe that he’s written a novel that weaves together the art of writing; the inescapable bonds of family; jealousy and disappointment; philosophy and quantum mechanics; and the ways in which people can rewrite their own lives. This is incredibly ambitious, but Mr. Selgin has done it seamlessly and with great propulsion.” (Riverhead)