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Duma Key: A Novelby Stephen King
I start salivating about six months before any new Stephen King novel is released and couldn't wait to get my hands on Duma Key. As usual with the "master's" books, I read it in one weekend, driving my poor dog nuts because I wouldn't put the light out and go to sleep like a good doggy mommy. It took a lot of coffee to get me going Monday morning, but it was well worth it as this is King's best work in many years (yes, far better than Lisey's Story and as good as The Shining). King does a great job creating anticipation, steadily building the chills and horror; by the end, you are so invested in the characters and plot you would die rather than put the book down.
Synopses & Reviews
No more than a dark pencil line on a blank page. A horizon line, maybe. But also a slot for blackness to pour through...
A terrible construction site 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. A marriage that produced two lovely daughters suddenly ends, and Edgar begins to wish he hadn't survived the injuries that could have killed him. He wants out. His psychologist, Dr. Kamen, suggests a "geographic cure," a new life distant from the Twin Cities and the building business Edgar grew from scratch. And Kamen suggests something else.
"Edgar, does anything make you happy?"
Edgar leaves Minnesota for a rented house on Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily undeveloped splinter of the Florida coast. The sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico and the tidal rattling of shells on the beach call out to him, and Edgar draws. A visit from Ilse, the daughter he dotes on, starts his movement out of solitude. He meets a kindred spirit in Wireman, a man reluctant to reveal his own wounds, and then Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman whose roots are tangled deep in Duma Key. Now Edgar paints, sometimes feverishly, his exploding talent both a wonder and a weapon. 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.
"In bestseller King's well-crafted tale of possession and redemption, Edgar Freemantle, a successful Minnesota contractor, barely survives after the Dodge Ram he's driving collides with a 12-story crane on a job site. While Freemantle suffers the loss of an arm and a fractured skull, among other serious injuries, he makes impressive gains in rehabilitation. Personality changes that include uncontrollable rages, however, hasten the end of his 20-year-plus marriage. On his psychiatrist's advice, Freemantle decides to start anew on a remote island in the Florida Keys. To his astonishment, he becomes consumed with making art — first pencil sketches, then paintings — that soon earns him a devoted following. Freemantle's artwork has the power both to destroy life and to cure ailments, but soon the Lovecraftian menace that haunts Duma Key begins to assert itself and torment those dear to him. The transition from the initial psychological suspense to the supernatural may disappoint some, but even those few who haven't read King (Lisey's Story) should appreciate his ability to create fully realized characters and conjure horrors that are purely manmade." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Art and the effects of physical trauma take center stage in Stephen King's fiction these days, shadowed perhaps by his own near-fatal accident almost nine years ago. With a hero crippled on the job and then tormented by a demonic spirit in recovery, King's new novel, 'Duma Key,' is a tale of conflict between the forces of horror and the redemptive power of creativity. In his previous... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) novel, 'Lisey's Story,' the artist was uncomfortably close to King himself. Scott Landon, Lisey's late husband, was a best-selling horror writer who exercised his power from beyond the grave. In 'Duma Key,' King distances himself a step from his own craft by turning to the easel rather than to the pen: Mysterious paintings set in motion the forces of healing but also conjure the specter of death. The novel's hero, Edgar Freemantle, is driving his pickup truck when it 'argues with a twelve-story crane.' In a minute of catastrophe, he is transformed from a millionaire construction developer into a brain-damaged invalid minus a right arm. In constant pain, he flashes unpredictably from suicidal despair to violent rage. He loses his job, his wife and life as he has known it. Attempting to shake off his depression, Edgar moves from suburban Minneapolis to a sparsely inhabited Florida spit of land called Duma Key. There he rents an isolated stucco mansion he nicknames 'Big Pink' and hires Jack Cantori, a bright 'make-it-happen' college student, to be his missing right arm and help him start life over. Jack's cheerful presence gives life at Big Pink an air of normalcy, but Edgar does a great deal more than rest and gaze at the blue waters of the gulf. Out of nowhere, he starts drawing and painting, producing sketches and surreal landscapes. His landlady, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, provides enigmatic insight into what is happening to her tenant. 'Art is memory, Edgar,' she tells him one day. 'There is no simpler way to say it.' In three months he amasses more than 40 paintings and sketches and is invited to become the client of a major Sarasota art gallery. The exhibition is an astounding success, but Edgar's brilliant works of art transform the novel from a story of convalescence to a fable of nightmare. It requires some suspension of disbelief to accept this Midwestern real estate mogul as an instant heir to Salvador Dali (who passed through Duma in years past). Edgar himself points out, 'Last year at this time I was doodling on phone pads while I was on hold.' But the King faithful — and they are legion — know that a terrible price must be paid for such acclaim and fame. Edgar's success as a painter marks the point at which death and damnation kick into high gear. Edgar's art, it soon turns out, can cure but also kill. Woe unto those art connoisseurs who so enthusiastically buy these strange works of toxic beauty. King strews signs of doom everywhere, from the sinister murmuring of the seashells beneath the house to a series of increasingly diabolical children's dolls to the constant presence of Edgar's missing right arm, which itches unbearably when he forces his left hand to draw. He cannot put it to rest however hard he tries. 'I lowered my right hand, long since burned in the incinerator of a St. Paul hospital, to the arm of my chair and drummed the fingers,' he tells us. 'No sound, but the sensation was there: skin on wicker.' His phantom right arm partners with his left to paint ever more demonic scenes, often with the sun setting behind a stark abandoned ship anchored just offshore from Big Pink. The story moves slowly but hypnotically toward an unfolding horror that surrounds Edgar and everyone he cares for. Along the way, we encounter a very nasty goddess by the name of Perse, 'old when the Children of Israel were still grubbing in the gardens of Egypt.' She, who has been conveniently imprisoned in a sunken ship, is reincarnated in all her implacable evil. And she has scores to settle. King may be meditating on the diverse powers of the creative soul, but he has in no way lost his unmatched gift for ensnaring and chilling his readers with 'terrible fishbelly fingers.'" Reviewed by Brigitte Weeks, who is a former editor of The Washington Post Book World, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"While not alike in plot, this book has a feel of such books as Bag of Bones and the more recent Lisey's Story and is essential for any popular fiction or King collection." Library Journal
"[M]asterfully plotted...rife with vital characters....Perhaps the book is the stuff of old grade-B movie chillers and not one of King's masterpieces, but it's grade-A writing and solid craftsmanship all the way." Booklist
"Edgar's own story in the present is more compelling than the revelations of the key's past, and the novel might have been twice as powerful if it had been cut by a third, but King fans will find it engrossing." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"However simple [King's] storytelling sounds, it exerts a relentless tidal pull....The last third of the book goes into overdrive, leading each of the people and objects strewn innocently through the story to some kind of diabolical turn." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"The book is a slow burn, and the better for it....
"[A] page-turner of the most cinematic sort — full of sparring dialogue, discrete scenes and vivid surface descriptions." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"At its core it's a horror story, but with enough emotional complications to keep you turning the pages." Boston Globe
The #1 bestselling author delivers a new novel about a man whose near-fatal accident gives him access to vast powers of creativity — and destruction.
Six months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body, self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. His wife asked for a divorce after he stabbed her with a plastic knife and tried to strangle her one-handed (he lost his arm and, for a time, his rational brain in the accident). He divides his wealth into four equal parts for his wife, his two daughters, and himself, and leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled.
Soon the ghosts of Elizabeth's childhood return, and the damage of which they are capable is truly terrifying.
Like Lisey's Story, this is a novel about the tenacity of love and the perils of creativity. Its supernatural elements will have King fans reeling.
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are the Dark Tower novels, Cell, From a Buick 8, Everything's Eventual, Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Bag of Bones. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, was also a bestseller. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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