Stephen King

Duma Key

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Duma Key Summary

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Duma Key (2008) is a fantasy-horror novel by American author Stephen King. An extension of his earlier short story, “Monday,” it follows Edgar Freemantle, a construction worker from Minneapolis who narrowly misses death in a freak accident, losing an arm and suffering brain damage. After the accident, Edgar moves to a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of Florida, where he starts to develop psychic powers. His hope for a peaceful year away from home is undermined by his inexplicable bouts of rage and other extreme behaviors that drive away his wife and soon start to change his life in other ways. The novel received mixed reviews due to its seeming departure from some of King’s idiosyncratic horror themes and its lengthy focus on characterization.

Duma Key begins as Edgar Freemantle is recovering from his freak accident at the construction site. A falling crane crushed his truck, and the resulting blunt trauma to his arm required its amputation. In addition, he now has problems with vision, memory, and speech, and the trauma has made him suicidal and psychologically unstable. During a particularly bad mood swing, he threatens to kill his wife with a plastic utensil; his wife divorces him, citing this moment as the moment she decided to leave him. Edgar’s psychologist, Dr. Kamen, recommends that he take a yearlong retreat in order to rest and recover from his physical and mental trauma. In a travel brochure, Edgar finds a beach house for rent on a small island called Duma Key. He rents it out for a year, naming it “Big Pink” for its bright pink color. He hires a college student, Jack Cantori, as his aide, and resumes some old hobbies, including drawing.

Edgar soon starts to experience premonitions through his art. Through the spontaneous images he creates, he discovers that his youngest daughter, Ilse, is engaged and that his ex-wife is sleeping with his former accountant. When Ilse comes to visit, they drive together through the island, passing an old woman named Elizabeth Eastlake. Something about the island makes Ilse extremely sick; later, Elizabeth tells Edgar that Duma Key brings sickness to daughters. Because Elizabeth is known to have Alzheimer’s disease, Edgar ignores the warning.

Over the coming weeks and months, Edgar begins to feel better. He befriends a middle-aged man, Jerome Wireman, Elizabeth’s in-home helper. Through Wireman, he learns that Elizabeth owns half of Duma Key, and is rumored to be in an ownership dispute over the rest. As Edgar continues to draw and paint, he realizes that his images are not necessarily reflections of existing reality, rather, they influence reality. He uses his power to remove a bullet stuck in Wireman’s cranium from a past suicide attempt. He also uses it to enact justice on a rapist and murderer by killing him in his prison cell. He successfully submits the art to an exhibition on the island; Elizabeth advises Edgar to remove his paintings from the island after he exhibits them.

At the exhibition, Elizabeth tries to warn Edgar about the paintings but suffers a fatal seizure. Edgar starts to suspect that an entity known locally as Persephone is haunting his paintings. The next day, he finds his house broken into. He soon realizes that everyone in possession of one of his paintings either dies or is possessed by Persephone to kill people close to him. Mary Ire, the purchaser of one of his “Girl and Ship” paintings, murders Ilse in her apartment before committing suicide. On the brink of despair, Edgar frantically tries to stop Persephone, discovering that the paintings are psychically connected to Elizabeth’s childhood traumas. Elizabeth herself had begun to paint after suffering a brain injury and discovered a statue of a woman with a red hood possessed by Persephone. She tried to no avail to destroy it, and then Persephone enacted revenge by killing Elizabeth’s twin sisters. Discovering that Persephone could be stopped by submerging the figurine in freshwater, Elizabeth sealed her in a freshwater cistern under her childhood home on Duma Key; since then, however, the water table has been mixing with saltwater, setting Persephone free.

Edgar, Wireman, and Jack travel to Elizabeth’s childhood home and find the figurine. They seal it inside a flashlight casing full of freshwater. Edgar brings the flashlight to Big Pink, where Persephone appears in the form of his daughter, offering him immortality in exchange for him to spare her. Edgar tricks the entity into coming close enough for him to destroy her. He travels to Minnesota, sealing away the figurine at the bottom of a freshwater lake, and hopefully ending the curse forever.