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Book Review: Duma Key

Since November when I learned that the ultimate writer’s new novel was coming out in January, I was waiting on edge. It could turn out to be of Buick 8 quality, which would mean six years of scratching my head to figure the novel out; or it could be The Cell quality, which would mean ecstasy.

Luckily it was the latter.

Duma Key ranks among Stephen King’s better novels because it skillfully weaves two of King’s subjects together: the supernatural and the emotional.

Most people don’t recognize the touching side of King, even after they are pointed out that The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Stand by Me exist because of our beloved King. But it does exist.

In the story, Edgar Freemantle loses an arm and suffers a countercoup brain injury, which sends him into rages when he cannot recall words correctly or do something for himself. During these rages, he almost chokes his wife to death and stabs her with a plastic fork.

Understandably, she wants a divorce, adding onto Edgar’s grief. To get away from this mounting turmoil, Edgar’s therapist prescribes two things: taking up something that brings him joy and relocating.

He moves to an almost deserted island where he takes up painting again (something he hasn’t done since high school) and begins the slow process of recuperating.

Along the way, Edgar meets the noteworthy character of Wireman, who perhaps helps more than the therapist. Wireman is the caretaker of Elizabeth Eastlake, who lives just down the beach from Edgar.

His painting, fueled by a phantom limb pain, soon takes on a supernatural component: his paintings begin to come true.

He draws a picture of his daughter’s fiancé without knowing she is engaged; he successfully kills a child murderer by drawing him without a nose or mouth; and he knows his ex-wife is sleeping with his best friend by drawing them in bed together.

Those are the paintings he hides in his closet. The other paintings include a series of a girl on a ship, which begins to unravel the mystery of the supernatural powers of the islands’ history through Elizabeth’s past.

Reading a King novel is like searching a “Where’s Waldo” image, which is perhaps one of the best thing about reading his books. Tiny bits of images or occurrences hidden in his stories lead back to the Dark Tower series. Duma Key is no different for the astute reader.

The “Constant Reader,” as King refers to his fans, will also notice similarities between this and his television series, Kingdom Hosipital, which more closely mirrors King’s accident that left him fighting for his life in 1999.

Since this accident, King’s characters have begun to focus more on the grief that invades their lives, like Lisey Landon after her husband Scott dies in Lisey’s Story.

Elizabeth, Wireman, and Edgar are bound together by the grief that runs through their individual lives, which allows the supernatural powers in Duma Key to take control of this particular group. Together they learn an important lesson: “The only way to go on is to go on.