Title: Duma Key
Author: Stephen King
Page Count/Review Word Count: 694
Duma Key is was an interesting read, the kind of book that set my expectations and then exceeded them. At the start of it, I was worried it was going to drag on and on, but by the end of it, it was flying by and I couldn’t put it down. True, I’m not entirely sure what actually happened at times, but then that always seems to work well for King – it leaves the reader with a sense of mystery, as well as with an urge to go back and read it again sometime.
Okay, so let’s start off with the story line. We follow the story of a chap called Edgar Freemantle, a guy who used to be a married man and a building contractor but who lost an arm in an industrial accident. Edgar and his wife drift apart, and he decides to spend some time in the Florida Keys to try to rebuild his life. While he’s there, he starts painting, and then those paintings start having an effect on the real world around him. But there’s something not quite right about the whole affair, and he starts to question it with the help of a few of the locals.
Duma Key is the island that he retires to, and it’s there that a mysterious power seems to have hold of things, giving people the inspiration to create like one of the Old Masters. And the place likes broken things, which is why it likes Freemantle with his missing arm, and why it likes Wireman, Edgar’s new neighbour, a guy who tried to shoot himself and survived it and ended up with a bullet in his brain.
Along the way, Edgar starts to paint different variations on similar paintings, and the slow evolution of his work forms a key part of the story line. There’s even a big chunk that deals with the build up to and the evening of an art show, in which a bunch of Edgar’s paintings are sold for over half a million dollars. But it’s all relevant to the story line, because there’s a sort of subtle link between the art that Edgar creates and a sort of evil spirit that’s tied to the island’s history.
King excels here, as usual, at delivering an interlinked plot in which all of the characters and all of their actions are important, and you find yourself looking back at things that seemed insignificant at the time but which turned out to have more importance than you would have guessed. It’s a gripping read, a real page-turner that keeps you going right up until the end, and I’d definitely recommend it whether you’re a seasoned King fan or whether you’re new to his work.
Just be sure to bear in mind that it can take a little while to get into it. For the first hundred pages or so, you have to will yourself on, but it’s one of those rare books that’s simultaneously an epic read purely for the length of it and a smooth book you can dip in and out of at your leisure. I read it in four days, but I’m a quick reader – it all depends upon how much time you have to dedicate to it, but it’s the kind of book that makes you want to clear a space in your schedule to devour it.
Another one of the interesting things about this book is how it features a protagonist with a physical disability without overly relying on it. Sure, it comes into play as a factor from time to time, but it feels believable and that’s of paramount importance if you’re an able-bodied writer who’s talking about someone with an impairment. In fact, it’s impressive how King’s characters can drop the occasional N-bomb without it feeling politically incorrect. You’re just that involved with the story, you won’t want to draw yourself out of it to start questioning the integrity of the author. Which is a good thing – don’t judge the writer, judge the work.