This Mother’s Day will mark the 35th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King’s first novel “Carrie.” Since then, he has written over 40 novels and more than 200 short stories. These works have been turned into countless blockbuster movies, including 1994’s Academy Award nominated “The Shawshank Redemption” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” He is among America’s most celebrated working novelists and earlier this year he released his latest work entitled “Duma Key.””Duma Key” is the story of Edgar Freemantle, a successful contractor from Minnesota who loses his arm and suffers a severe brain injury during a job site accident. Freemantle loses his memory for a time after the accident and is forced to relearn many things that people often take for granted. On top of that, he also must endure painful physical therapy to overcome injuries to his ribs and legs in addition to his lost arm. All of this plunges him into a deep depression and eventually costs him his wife, who leaves him because she can’t handle his emotional state.
On the advice of his psychiatrist, Dr. Kamen, Edgar decides to get out of Minnesota for a while in order to help his recovery. Edgar settles on a small island on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida called Duma Key as the perfect place for his rehab.
Before he leaves, Kamen advises him to take up a hobby or find something that he used to like to do as another aid to recovery. The only thing Edgar can think of that he used to like to do is draw. He had never done more then some occasional sketching while on the phone but Edgar decides to give it a shot.
While on Duma Key, Edgar hires a young man named Jack to drive him around and help him out around the house. He also meets the island’s only other inhabitants at the time: Miss Elizabeth Eastlake, who owns the island, and her caretaker, who goes by the name Wireman. Edgar’s artistic abilities soon begin to flourish by leaps and bounds while on the island. Before long, Edgar gets tangled up in the island’s dark and dangerous history and he realizes that the key to surviving it may be hidden in his paintings and also in the drawings of a long forgotten little girl, who suffered a similar head injury.
Unfortunately, people tend to focus more on the mesmerizing worlds that King’s characters inhabit, overlooking the characters themselves. King is a master character creator and that is on display in “Duma Key”. Throughout the course of the novel, the reader is placed directly in Edgar’s shoes and endures each hardship and triumph with him. The story’s events unfold in the past tense as Edgar tells us of his time on Duma Key, and by the time he finishes he feels like an old friend. The supporting characters are just as well-rounded as Edgar. Elizabeth provides part of the story’s emotional core, something that hits in full towards the middle of the novel. Wireman is the friend everyone wishes they had. He stands by Edgar no matter who, or what, threatens him.
Many of King’s constant readers will notice familiar elements scattered throughout “Duma Key”. The number 19, which held a significant importance throughout King’s “Dark Tower” series, can be spotted in character names and other select places. The prominence of roses in one of Edgar’s paintings are also a throwback to “The Dark Tower.” Finally, a conversation about a small Mexican town towards the end of the novel will call to mind one of King’s greatest works.
The origins of “Duma Key” make up a fairly interesting story in themselves. The novel, which clocks in at a little over 600 pages, originally started out as a short story called “Memory”, which is available to read online. As King toyed around with it he realized that this short story was actually only the beginning of a much longer story. “Memory” was basically turned into the book’s first chapter, with some small revisions.
“Duma Key” is the best Stephen King novel to be released outside of “The Dark Tower” series in some time. His characters leap off the page and the novel’s themes of love, loss and redemption will stay with you long after the book concludes. It contains the perfect balance of horror and humanity, something that King has perfected over the last 35 years.
Colin McGlinchey is a third-year student majoring in elementary education. He can be reached at CM465588@wcupa.edu.