Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Review: Duma Key

Duma Key(Kindle Edition) is Stephen King's latest novel. After reading On Writing, I was reminded of how readable King was, and upon sampling the first few chapters of Duma Key, was sucked in and immediately bought the novel (the Kindle price at $10 also makes it an easy sell).

The novel revolves around Edgar Freemantle, a developer who made millions building homes, offices, and banks. While driving through a construction a crane runs over his SUV, crushing it (and him). The result is a head injury, amputation of his right arm, and recurring pain in his hip, which had to be reconstructed. It is clear from reading this part of the novel that King has intimate knowledge of major injuries as well as recovery --- having first hand experience as well, his descriptions and characterization of the victim is real. In Freemantle's case, the consequences are even more dire --- his wife leaves him, and he is left unable to do the job he enjoyed. His psychiatrist saves him from suicide by suggesting that he changes location and takes up a hobby which he enjoyed before --- drawing.

Take his doctor's advise, Freemantle moves to Florida and discovers to his surprise, that he's good at his work. His work improves dramatically in an astonishingly short amount of time, and his mental and physical state heals. He meets neighbors, and enjoys their company. Yet both folks living near him appear to have suffered head injuries, and he discovers that one of them, Elizabeth Eastlake, was also an artistic prodigy who has given up her art, claiming that she had no talent.

True to King's form, Freemantle soon discovers that his paintings aren't just disturbing, his talent enables him to reshape the world, and Duma Key isn't what it seems...

I won't spoil the rest of the novel for you. The plot is relatively straight-forward, the writing is trademark King --- easy to read, but with excellent use of characters, dialogue, and imagery, and therefore probably not at all easy to write. The themes involved --- art, creation, healing, and family --- are dealt with deftly, competently, and without pretension. They arise naturally as part of the story, and at no point do they feel artificial. The characters, however, are what makes the book shine --- from the speech patterns to the narrative (the novel is mostly written in first person from Freemantle's perspective), every bit of characterization oozes authenticity.

This book is a long read --- I drained my Kindle from a full charge to empty three quarters of the way through the book (I was using a font size larger than usual). Yet at no point did I feel that the book was bloated. The ending was satisfying and didn't feel like cheating at all, with all the pieces having been presented to the reader a while back. Highly recommended for those looking for a summer read.
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