October 10th, 2012


Book Review: Duma Key, by Stephen King

A one-armed painter summons demons literal and metaphorical in the Florida Keys.

Duma Key

Scribner, 2007, 609 pages

A terrible accident takes Edgar Freemantle's right arm and scrambles his memory and his mind, leaving him with little but rage as he begins the ordeal of rehabilitation. When his marriage suddenly ends, Edgar begins to wish he hadn't survived his injuries. He wants out. His psychologist suggests a new life distant from the Twin Cities, along with something else:

"Edgar, does anything make you happy?"
"I used to sketch."
"Take it up again. You need hedges...hedges against the night."

Edgar leaves for Duma Key, an eerily undeveloped splinter of the Florida coast. The sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico calls out to him, and Edgar draws. Once he meets Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman with roots tangled deep in Duma Key, Edgar begins to paint, sometimes feverishly; many of his paintings have a power that cannot be controlled. When Elizabeth's past unfolds and the ghosts of her childhood begin to appear, the damage of which they are capable is truly devastating.

The tenacity of love, the perils of creativity, the mysteries of memory, and the nature of the supernatural: Stephen King gives us a novel as fascinating as it is gripping and terrifying.

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Verdict: Duma Key is almost "King-lite" compared to the monster epics he used to write. It shows all of King's writing talent after he learned to keep his id on a leash. A good story that will still give you a little frisson of fear from the old master, but for real batshit King, you need to read his older stuff.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story, Cell, and The Shining.

My complete list of book reviews.