I must admit up front that it is tremendously difficult for me to NOT like Stephen King’s writing. From the time I read Gerald’s Game at the age of thirteen (I highly doubt that 13 year olds were the target market for that particular book…), I was hooked. Since then I could be considered what Mr. King refers to often as Constant Reader.
Duma Key is the story of Edgar Freemantle, a millionaire who loses his arm in a construction accident, and eventually moves to the Florida coast while he tries to rebuild his life. During the course of his new self discovery, Edgar learns that he can paint. However, those of you who know King know that there must be something supernatural behind his new found talent.
This is a good place to note that I read Duma Key directly off the heels of The Stand. I’d always had The Stand on my bookshelf, but hadn’t gotten around to reading the 1000+ page behemoth. Those of you familiar with the book know that a, if not the central protagonist is Abigail Freemantle, or Mother Abigail as she is more frequently referred to. Coincidence? The Dark Tower fans might not think so.
Back to Duma Key. The first half of the book draws you in, as you witness Edgar advance from his hospital bed to a small art gallery where he is quickly becoming a local celebrity. King describes the painting richly, and could convince the reader that he is a painter himself.
Edgar’s experience painting while living in “Big Pink”, an old beach house owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, the local eccentric and rich lady, inevitably evolves into something more sinister. Without offering any spoilers, I say that when King discovered this aspect of the story, he could have gone in a completely different direction than the one Duma Key taken in the second half of the book .
That being said, the direction he does take is true Stephen King form; a mixture of personal and supernatural failures and triumphs, rooted as firmly in the human condition as it is in tales of ghosts and other menacing creatures. There is, however, a moment in the book where you will find yourself scratching your head and saying “Where the hell is he going with this?” If you can get through that part, you will be satisfied with the result, especially if you are fond of rainbow colored frogs with “teef”.