Duma Key by Stephen King

I have never much cared for Florida, which I realize is an unpopular opinion. But aside from the massive amount of bugs, the dreadful humidity, the terrible hurricanes, and the fact that Mar-a-Lago is located there, Florida just has never been my cuppa tea. It’s a beautiful place, certainly, but it has always had a weirdly phony vibe to it, almost as though it’s a painted backdrop and the reality of the place is just beyond reach. So when I read Duma Key at the suggestion of a friend and fellow Stephen King fan, I went in not expecting a whole lot. Boy, was I surprised!

Edgar Freemantle (yes, King fans, a little Easter egg from The Stand!) has lost his arm in a freakish accident, taken the insurance money and moved to a practically deserted Florida key island called Duma Key. He is recovering both physically, as well as emotionally from his divorce, and intends to work on his long-abandoned painting. While grimly walking the lengths of Duma Key’s beaches each day as part of his physical therapy, he encounters first Jerome Wireman, the caretaker for the island’s Alzheimer-ridden owner, and then the owner herself, Elizabeth Eastman. As Edgar continues to heal physically, his painting seems to overtake him at times and he produces amazing paintings that are not only eerily beautiful but are also portentous of things to come, and more terrifyingly, memories of the terrible events that happened on Duma Key years ago.

Most importantly, Edgar discovers that his paintings have the ability to change reality, to erase realities that cause pain, but at some pretty terrible costs in the end. The element of being able to rewrite reality, or repaint reality in thisย  case, was reminiscent of King’s short story Word Processor of the Gods, which is one of my absolute favorites of his short tales, because after all, who wouldn’t want to be able to revise the reality in which we live?

Essentially, Edgar is psychically channeling the artistic talent of Elizabeth, whose entire family perished many years ago due to some bizarre supernatural events that came into being as a result of her own psychical talents. What I love about the new direction that Stephen King has taken in his writing – hard case crime – is that he retains that element of the supernatural, those spooky little twists that just add such a layer of depth to his already amazing writing. And as usual, he excels at depicting the inner life, musings and humanity of his characters, and the friendship between Edgar and Jerome Wireman is one of the most fully realized and wonderful in any of his books. This is also the case in the depiction of Edgar’s ex-wife Pam. Pam is a highly unpleasant character, shrill, angry, and although her backstory is given and I did feel some empathy for her, just her overall negativity and constant blaming of Edgar for EVERY LITTLE THING seriously aggravated me.

Anyhoo, as with most food references in horror fiction, the food depicted in Duma Key is meant primarily as comfort. Edgar’s extreme painting talent always leaves him ravenous, so he devours sugary cereals by the boxful, microwave meals heavy on the carbs, cookies, and whatever else he can use to fuel his creative fire. Elizabeth’s Alzheimer’s plays havoc with her appetite so she is coaxed to eat comfort foods such as tuna salad and macaroni salad. Edgar’s daughter Ilse spends Thanksgiving with him on the island and they share a delicious-sounding meal of roast chicken, and cranberry stuffing. But by far my favorite was a drink reference on the day that Edgar meets Jerome Wireman for the first time and they cement their friendship.

We clinked glasses and drank. I’d had green tea before and thought it was okay, but this was heavenly – like drinking cold silk, with just a faint tang of sweetness. “Do you taste the honey?” he asked and smiled when I nodded. “Not everyone does…..It releases the natural sweetness of the tea.”

Since Florida is where rum punch was invented, I thought a cocktail combining rum with the heavenly green tea that Jerome makes would be an excellent idea. I wasn’t wrong. But drink with caution, ’cause this green tea rum punch will knock you on your ass.

Large pitcher of citrus green tea brewed from leaves or from tea bags
White rum
Brown sugar
Fresh mint
Juice of 2 limes
Ice cubes

Brew your tea and let it steep with the most of the fresh mint leaves.

Once cool, pour about 8 ounces of the minty tea into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar and then add 1-2 jiggers of rum. Or don’t measure it and just free pour. It’s your drink, baby!

Squeeze in as much lime juice as you want. This drink is very much a matter of individual taste, so how much rum, sugar and lime you add is totally up to you.

Garnish the glass with sprigs of mint and lime slices, and knock it back like you’re Rocky Balboa quaffing raw eggs after a long run. Then when you find yourself passed out on the kitchen floor with your head cushioned atop your hardcover edition of this book, you’ll understand why I said drink with caution. ๐Ÿ™‚

17 thoughts on “Duma Key by Stephen King

  1. Love your insights about Florida. I lived first on the west coast of Florida for a year and then on the east coast of Florida for three years for my first “real” jobs as an adult. I moved back up north after that to start my third job one January 1st, right after a huge snowstorm. The funny part was that everyone who saw the Florida plates on my car asked, “Why?”. I just smiled and said, “It was time.” But I have to admit I visit every winter to escape the Chicago gray for a burst of Florida sunshine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do not care too much for Florida either, as an anecdote, my father worked for some years as a Bacardi representative in Northwest Mexico, and I have an ex-wife who grew up there, and two sons from her, who also grew up there, one still lives in Panama city, in Florida, never myself being there either, I am a totally West Coast guy.
    I always enjoy your book reviews, and the work you put in your recipes, your pictures are excellent, I enjoy specially that picture where you are serving the drinks, lovely!
    I am in love!๐Ÿฅฐ

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book sounds great and so does the rum punch, for which I happen to have all the ingredients. My cousins live in FL, and I often wonder how they can stand living in the same state as Mar-a-Lago and Desantis, but oh well. ๐Ÿ™‚ Gotta live somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your book and recipe recommendations! I do happen to like Florida, but a small dose here and there will do the trick. Alligators make for very fun horror flicks and stories, but seeing them just roaming around out there, is really a thing I don’t need. Cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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