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DUMA KEY by Stephen King Kirkus Star


by Stephen King

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5251-2
Publisher: Scribner

The prolific master of psycho-horror returns to the mysteries of the creative process, a subject that has inspired some of his most haunting work.

This could be considered a companion piece to The Shining, offering plenty of reversals on that plot. In both cases, isolation has severe effects on the psyche of an artist, yet where the former novel found its protagonist in a lethal state of writer’s block, the latter sees a one-time building magnate transformed into an impossibly prolific and powerful painter, due to circumstances beyond his control. And where the isolation in the former had a family cut off from society by a frigid northern winter, the setting of the latter is a mysterious Florida key, lush and tropical in its overgrowth, somehow immune to commercial development. A self-made millionaire, Edgar Freemantle narrates the novel in a conversational, matter-of-fact tone. He explains how a job-site accident cost him his arm, his sanity (during the early part of an extended recuperation) and his wife (whom he had physically threatened after the accident transformed him into something other than himself). What he gained was a seemingly inexplicable command as a visual artist, particularly after his recuperation (from both his accident and his marriage) takes him to the isolated Duma Key, where the only other inhabitants are an elderly, wealthy woman and her caretaker. It seems that all three have suffered severe traumas that bond them and that perhaps have even drawn them together. Soon Edgar discovers that his art has given him the power not only to predict the future, but to transform it. He ultimately pays a steep price for his artistic gifts, particularly as his investigation of the mysteries of Duma Key lead him to discover the tragic origins of his artistic vision.

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.