Duma Key, by Stephen King

This is the best thing I’ve read from Stephen King in years. Nothing he’s written since The Green Mile kept me as consistently interested and engaged. (Cell was close, but possibly because I liked the idea of all those folks walking along, jabbering on their phones, being slaughtered in one fell swoop; I’m mean that way.) The early King books just grabbed you and held on until they’d wrung the life out of you, and this book had the same holding power. Duma Key kept me on edge for 18 cds, it kept me sitting in my office parking lot, counting the minutes until I had to go into the office; it kept me sitting in my driveway, listening, watching the cat sit in the window and wonder why I wouldn’t come in to feed her. That is no small accomplishment.

Edgar Freemantle has a terrible accident (described in vivid detail). He loses his right arm, suffers a traumatic brain injury and his life is turned upside down. He suffers from bouts of rage and memory loss, his marriage falls apart and on the advice of his therapist, he moves across the country from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast of Florida. He takes up drawing – an old college hobby – and slowly begins to heal. He makes friends: Jack, the college student who runs errands and helps him around the house. Jerome Wireman, a marvelous character who cares for the island’s only other resident, Elizabeth Eastlake – wealthy, eccentric, ancient and in failing health. She’s also a key to the mystery that unfolds.

Edgar’s sketches and paintings have power – both wonderful and terrible. It takes Edgar and Wireman some time to begin to understand that power and the other forces at work on the island. Isn’t that always the way with a King story? There are other forces at work, things we don’t fully understand, pushing us along in their path. And that’s all I plan to say about the story. It is so much more fun to discover it on your own. One of the things that King does especially well, one of the things I love about his books, is the half-knowing that you have; you go forward, knowing what’s coming next, dreading it, hoping that there’s something else. I mean, when you read Pet Semetary, from the moment he tells the story of the Indian burial ground, didn’t you just KNOW what was going to happen? You didn’t know who and you didn’t know when, but you knew what. In this story you know the paintings have power, you know Edgar is going to use that power – even if he doesn’t completely understand it – and you know there will be terrible consequences. But you can’t stop reading it.

The characters in this book are fabulous. Wireman in particular is wonderful; you want to sit on the sand and have a glass of green tea, listen to him patter on in pidgen Spanish about nothing and everything. Dr. Kamen – the descriptions are so clear that you can picture his bulk and dark skin and hear his resonant voice. The child’s voice that narrates part of the story is clear and distinctive and compelling. And the storytelling? No one tells a ghost story quite like Stephen King, and this book is a return to all the things I loved about his early work. This is a book I’ll definitely be recommending to friends.

You can order your copy of Duma Key on Amazon.com.

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