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Duma Key

A book by Stephen King

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King's Third Act begins

  • Feb 21, 2008
When my best friend asked me what makes 'Duma Key' a Stephen King book, I had to think about it. I knew just what she meant: what makes it creepy, scary, where's that touch of the supernatural? I realized that what I had been describing to her didn't sound much like a King novel, and there is reason for that.

This isn't an easy novel to read. Edgar Freemantle, our intrepid protagonist, suffers a pretty horrific accident in the early pages, loses his right arm along with mental and physical function, his wife divorces him, he endures lots of painful therapy, considers suicide, and witnesses a beloved dog getting hit by a car, which he kills to end its suffering. This is all in the first chapter, mind you. Edgar's journey, as we are told about it, is one of a fast plummet, and then a hard scrabble for every inch as he finds out what he's still capable of in his "other" life. As he has done several times recently, King re-addresses his own brush with death in a car accident, but this time I think he went far deeper with it, really exploring what it means, and the kind of effect it can have on the life he's now gotten back. In Edgar's journey we see reflections of King's own -- not the same experiences, but colored by the same brush.

It's not just his trauma we see in 'Duma Key' either, but also, perhaps, some of how he sees being an artist. Edgar is not a writer like King, but in his recovery he rediscovers a forgotten talent for drawing, and eventually painting. It's refreshing to see King writing about art without writing about writers, as he so often does, and his perspective on the creative process here is an interesting one. Edgar's talent comes upon him like an itch in his missing right arm, and his pictures form in front of him as he watches his hand recreate what he sees in his head. How he gets there, and how he learns to refine the talent, is an interesting story itself.

But what makes it a Stephen King story? Where is that hint of the weird and the scary? Believe me, its there. It's there when Edgar starts to discover that what he paints is related to things he shouldn't know about, and sometimes what appears on his canvas has an effect on the real world too. Its there when Edgar sees two little girls down a darkened stairwell, gazing at him silently even when he's pretty sure they're dead. It's there almost from the beginning of the book, more and more as the story progresses, in subtle hints and clues all the way through. This is definitely a Stephen King novel, but it's not necessarily a King novel we've seen before. This is something a little bit new.

So keep in mind, while 'Duma Key' is not "vintage" King or a return to his old days, and includes many elements of King's recent work, what I think we're seeing in this book is a new hybrid of styles. There are pieces of King's early work here, but it is also the work of a more mature, methodical writer, one who has a little more something to say. He still tells a great story, but this one has some real meat to it. Perhaps we're seeing the beginning of a new kind of Stephen King novel, one which breaks many of the stereotypes he's built up over the years, but still tells a story in a way that only Stephen King can.

Here's hoping.

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More Duma Key: A Novel reviews
Quick Tip by . January 18, 2011
One of my favorite Stephen King books. I read it while on a beach vacation and the setting in the book made it perfect and a little creepier. If done properly it would make a superb movie. Recommend to anyone who likes creepy and great writing.
review by . June 24, 2010
Ahh... what can I say about Duma Key, other than it being an extraordinary experience, a literary breath of fresh air, a masterpiece of color and texture without any actual paint being used. I guess there are some people out there think it's boring or long but I instantaneously felt a bond with the book and I can say that I absolutely loved it! The writing itself was so colorful and interesting that I enjoyed each and every page, there was in no rush to get to the ending by any means, but I did …
review by . March 10, 2010
Sometimes I read a long book and wish it were shorter. But reading Stephen King's Duma Key was not one of those times. The story is beautifully plotted and paced, from the slightly off-kilter wonder of the first page--"Pictures are magic, as you know"--to the real-world tragedy of a brain-injured one-armed man, to the fearful, awful revelations around page 600.      The heroes in this novel are very real, very wounded people, old enough to know a bit about life, …
review by . May 23, 2009
Pros: fleshed out characters, interesting subject     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   What time zone am on? What country am I in?  It doesn't matter, it's five o'clock somewhere.  ~Jackson/Buffet     First I gotta say I’m beginning to hate Stephen King. My latest read, Duma Key, his 54th novel, comes in at a hefty 609 pages in hardback and I’ve got to tell Stephen these books are getting …
review by . June 07, 2008
I'm a pretty huge Stephen King fan, dating back to about 1979, when I first read THE SHINING. I've stuck with him through some poor times (THE DARK HALF & NEEDFUL THINGS) and certainly enjoyed the high points. DUMA KEY falls somewhere in the middle of the batch. It has some wonderful writing...aside from the story...King's ability to describe a situation (like an artist's first time gallery -opening) or a feeling (the frustration of learning to live with only one arm) is near its height. The settings …
review by . May 14, 2008
The prolific purveyor of terror, Stephen King, semi-successfully turns his finely honed, `I-know-what-scares-you' gaze from the venue of his beloved Maine to the seemingly serene retiree-haven of the Florida Keys in his umpteenth novel entitled, "Duma Key". This tale of horror explores the idea of an imaginative power so forceful that when it flexes its muscle a combination of all-hell-breaking-loose steam and creative juices gone wild collide with the impact of the construction crane that nearly …
review by . March 06, 2008
Any New England snowbird can empathize with Edgar Freemantle's instant fascination with the west coast Florida sunset.    "As that light skied upward, orange faded to a breathless Maxfield Parrish blue-green that I had never seen before with my own eyes...and yet I had a sense of déjà vu, as if maybe I had seen it, in my dreams."    Whether it's the novelty of a sunset over water or being closer to the equator or further west in the time zone, there's no denying …
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Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #80
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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About this book


Renting a house on an eerily undeveloped stretch of the Florida coast after suffering a crippling accident and ending his marriage, construction millionaire Edgar Freemantle obsessively creates works of art that lead him to discover unsettling elements from his landlady's enigmatic family history. Reprint.
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ISBN-10: 1416552510
ISBN-13: 978-1416552512
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Date Published: April 30, 2009
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"King's Third Act begins"
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