"Edgar, does anything make you happy?"
"I used to sketch."
"Take it up again. You need hedges...hedges against the night."
Edgar leaves for Duma Key, an eerily undeveloped splinter of the Florida coast. The sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico calls out to him, and Edgar draws. Once he meets Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman with roots tangled deep in Duma Key, Edgar begins to paint, sometimes feverishly; many of his paintings have a power that cannot be controlled. When Elizabeth's past unfolds and the ghosts of her childhood begin to appear, the damage of which they are capable is truly devastating.
The tenacity of love, the perils of creativity, the mysteries of memory, and the nature of the supernatural: Stephen King gives us a novel as fascinating as it is gripping and terrifying.
©2008 Stephen King; (P)2008 Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Some strengths of Duma Key:
Chararacters that became, at least to me, more real as friends than some people I know.
Hard-won insight into what makes us human, how we deal with time, loss, fear of loss (Since when have you taken the chance to make friends with an 86 year old woman?), the mysterious tangle of creativity.... This all makes me want to, rather than a dead sort of word like "literary," apply to King what someone, if I remember rightly, said about Ellington, "He knew what music was for." King knows what a novel is for. Get involved. Come along.
And finally, it includes a supernatural element that rather than making the story less powerful, merely paints it in King's chosen palette: vivid, disturbing, painful, tender, and essentially real where it matters most, and where perhaps it looms the most dangerous.
John Slattery, the reading was brilliant. Your voice stood up, offered me a cool drink, and became Wireman to me. I'll miss you, my friend. Highest honors.
***Humble Response to a Few Reviews**
It's been mentioned in some of these reviews that 1) the language was unnecessarily coarse and 2) that it started slow.
First, the language is entirely appropriate to an adult novel where organic brain trauma is involved. The protagonist's verbal outbursts can be, unfortunately, all too accurate, and are intended (I believe) to frighten the reader as it does the characters involved--to offend one's sense of how things ought to be.
In response to the second, I found the pace of his development added to my involvement in the story, and helped to add the kind of inevitablity, depth, and increasing momentum so present in the best of some of King's work. Also, I believe for the novel to work as well as it does, that we must see, really see, what happens there, and in that order.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Full disclosure; I'm definitely a fan of Stephen King. That said, I felt there was something special about this book. The story seemed more personal, the relationships more genuine. The narration is exquisite. Also, this book has a more satisfying ending than you normally get from SK; I don't think endings have ever been his forte (for me SK has always been more about the journey than the destination), but this one was done really well.
Written after his own car accident, this story about a man recovering from serious injury perfectly described the phenomenon of living with ever present pain - something I've rarely found described accurately.
All in all, a fantastic, thoughtful, spooky story told perfectly. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did.
Hard to believe that I've been reading Stephen King for twenty-five years, but there it is. I started with "Pet Sematary" and have read 90% of what he's written since. Does that make me a King "expert"? A dubious distinction . . .
Characterization is King's strong suit. Horror or fantasy or straight fiction -- it doesn't matter. His characters stick with you. King's ability to make us identify with his stock every-day-sort-of-guy main character represents his greatest strength as a writer. You'll like Freemantle and Wireman. You could have a beer with them. (You'll recognize Freemantle from Mike Noonan in "Bag of bones." Twins separated at birth, maybe?)
You'll also recognize King's typical build-up. Normal guy in unusual circumstances finds himself confronted with ambiguous monster out to get him (and his family) for unknown reasons. The foreplay is always more exciting that the actual act. Just like in "Dreamcatcher", King has trouble in this book moving from the heavily foreshadowed bogeyman to the real-life campaign to kill it. (Where do his monsters ever come from anyway? Do they ever have a history?) The exposition is quality, like something out of "The Stand" or "Hearts in Atlantis", but the ending melts into cheesiness, like a chapter from "Salem's Lot."
As an English teacher, I have a running row with my colleagues about whether or not King writes literature or trash. My argument has always been that he writes both. Most people don't realize that he's behind "The Shawshank Redemption" or "Stand by Me", or that his story "The Man in Black" won 1st place a few years back in "The Best American Short Story." (Ok, maybe that was a marketing ploy. But any guy who churns out a book a year, at least, is using the "win sometimes lose sometimes" strategy.) In this book he wins and loses. Great characterization and build up, unsatisfying hackneyed ending.
I gave this weekend to
Stephen King. Nothing accomplished except very long walks with dog and MP3 player. I would vote that this is his best book ever. The Florida Keys will never be the same, and I won't be buying any artwork soon!!!!You need to read/listen to this book. PS I really enjoyed the reader also.
I found Lisey's Story mostly weird, but Duma Key was King back in form. The characters are believable and multi-dimensional; the suspense is well-crafted to build as the story proceeds. It's tricky for a writer to deliver the payoff of a supernatural thriller without descending into the ridiculous, more so as readers become more and more sophisticated and inured to elaborate special effects horrors. How do you describe the baddie without creating the literary equivalent of a foam rubber monster? (We're talking zombies, and scary china dolls and yard jockeys come to life in this book.) Nevertheless, for the most part, Duma Key delivers the goods with only a few moments that had me more amused that savoring the thrill of apprehension. There's a heavy use of foreshadowing, that I liked at first, but ultimately found annoying because it detracted from the suspense. All in all, a fun listen that I had trouble turning off.
I loved this book. Great plot with just enough of the surreal to know its King yet totally believeable character action and developement. I have read almost every King book and this one is on the top of the list. I have listened to some 200 books in the past three years and this narrator, John Slattery, is one I will seek out in the future! Seems like I liked it. You will too!
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters were well developed, the story gripping, and the scifi in keeping with King's other greats. I see that some complained about the story getting off to a "slow start." Not only is the first third to half of the book about character development and building suspense, it is also a drama that is a great read even if the book never moved to the supernatural thriller that ensues. The narrative is high quality and not at all distracting, with multiple true characters done well. The only reason I give this 4 rather than 5 stars is that Steven King is a guilty pleasure rather than a great novelist. He relies heavily on the ingredients found in so many of his previous works, so this is in part a formula horror/scifi book of his. Well worth the listen and the price!
Duma Key is one of Stephen Kings best. He too often gets pigeon-holed as just a Horror writer when what he really is a Great writer. I listen to his books not because they make me want to look under the bed for monsters, as another reviewer mentioned, but because they are great stories.
Although they usually deal with the super-natural, it's the everyday, blue collar people, places, and dialog in his stories that I find so believable. That's what allows me to visualize what's happening and escape into the story.
Listening to Duma Key gave me 21 of the most enjoyable hours I've spent in quite some time.
Honestly, I just bought this audio because I needed something long for a trip. I don't like horror, and haven't liked anything I've read of King since "The Shining."
But this was excellent. King takes his time developing characters that you actually care about, rather than just setting up mannequins for some baddie to slash. At times I forgot it was supposed to be genre fiction, and got so caught up in the human portrayals and situations that when something brutal or shocking did happen, I was even more horrified. The reason I dislike horror novels is because most are empty slasher tales, with only the method of the demise of the monster being at issue, along with which stock character would get it next. I enjoy horror stories that transcend the stereotype, and this one did.
King shows he has grown with this novel. His characters are real, and their lives are intriguing even without some supernatural beastie coming after them. His insights are refreshing. Almost makes me wish King would venture out of his horror/fantasy genres more.
But this is still a horror book, and it works as one, with a creepy beastie and some originality--although many of King's stock techniques are still apparent.
And the narrator is very good. His style is relaxed but engaged, and he doesn't rush through scenes. Well done. He's now on a short list of narrators who will coax me into buying audios I otherwise wouldn't have. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and have listened to it twice.
I can't say enough good things about this book. I love the story (of course - Stephen King is the best) but John Slattery's narration is excellent - great voice and subtle but distinctive character differences. Very memorable. I've probably listened to 40 audio books in the last couple of years and this is the best. I've listened to it twice. I'll listen to anything with John Slattery.
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