A Visit to Duma Key

Duma KeyDuma Key
Stephen King
various formats

I started this novel back around the end of July or the beginning of August, I don’t remember which. I was wanting something I could sink my teeth in just for pleasure. I had (and still have, although the titles have changed) a fairly large stack of books for review. It was all starting to feel like work, and I was beginning to ask myself where the fun was in all of it. (This was during the same time period when I decided to make the move over from Blogger after Google decided I was a spam site.)

Stephen King has always been one of those writers that I connect with about 60=75% of the time. This one looked the most interesting of his titles I was considering. It concerned a single individual rather than a group of people. I ended up dipping into it off and on for a couple of months, hardly touching it after Worldcon until last week. The storyline was fairly straightforward, so it was one of those books you can pick up and put down, then come back to some time later without having to reread large portions to pick up the thread of the story.

The plot concerns a building contractor, Edgar Freemantle, who is injured in an accident at a construction site. He loses his right arm, along with suffering injuries to his head and right leg. In the process of trying to recover his health, he loses his marriage.

Searching for a place to heal, he rents a house on Duma Key off the Florida coast. There he discovers a latent ability to paint and draw. He also befriends an old woman, Elizabeth Eastlake, and her caregiver, Jerome Wireman.

It doesn’t take long for him to discover that his ability to paint can cause changes in the outside world. Elizabeth Eastlake also suffered a head injury as a child, and for a time she exhibited this same ability until she walked away from her art. The results for her weren’t exactly something a child would find comforting.

Now Freemantle thinks something has called him to Duma Key, something that wants him to finish what Elizabeth Eastlake started.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Duma Key isn’t a book you rush through in one or two sittings. Rather, it’s the kind of novel that you soak up and savor. Perhaps that was partly a function of my taking my time with it. Still, King brings Edgar Freemantle and Jerome Wireman to life. Elizabeth Eastlake is sinking deeper into senility, so we don’t get to know her as directly as we do the men. But she’s just as much a central character as Freemantle or Wireman.

There are secrets on Duma Key. Freemantle unpeels them just like an onion, much to his regret at times. King keeps them coming up to the very end.  Once or twice, he answered questions about the past that I only realized I’d been asking in hindsight.  There’s a heavy sense of tragedy hanging over the story, along with some creepy chills. This one has become one of my favorite King novels.  If you’re in the mood for a multilayered story, this is one you’ll want to consider.

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