Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King Book Review

HeartsInAtlantis_7243In “Hearts in Atlantis” Stephen King reaches the maturity every author tries to achieve during his career. Along the five stories existent in the book, King blends in his fantasy magna-opus (The Dark Tower) with some touching tales about discovering life during the sixties in US, and how some of the people of that generation deal with the aftermath.

Five interconnected, sequential narratives, set in the years from 1960 to 1999. Each story is deeply rooted in the sixties, and each is haunted by the Vietnam War.

Fighting for peace, is like f***ing for chastity

The first story was adapted for the big screen and even if you might not have noticed, it’s not only connected to Insomnia (the little men in the coats) but also to Shining, as the boy, Bobby, has a shine equal to Danny’s.

Come to the book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it and draw your own map.

The first story is “Low men in yellow coats“, which was adapted to a movie starring Anthony Hopkins.2901.tif

This is the story of a summer in Bobby Garfield’s life, in 1960, when he met a strange fellow, Ted Brauttigan. Ted is much more than he seems to be, and he is running from something he can’t tell Bobby about. “Low men…” is the longest story in the book, and, as previously stated by other reviewers, Dark Tower fans will be delighted to know yet another part of this amazing fantasy saga. Readers who are not aware of Dark Tower may think the story is strange and unbelievable, but it may also be a starting point to get to know Roland and his quest companions. The story is connected to the Wolves of the Calla, where Father Callahan shared some of his story with our ka-tet.

Part of his story involved his travels down highways in hiding, and the relentless pursuit of his trail by the Low Men in Yellow Coats. So you can see where the connection begins.

What I loved in this book was how Ted Brauttigan taught Bobby a love of books. How to read, how to explore, how to treasure and never abandon a story.

Read sometimes for the story, Bobby. Don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words – the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers that won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both good story and good words, treasure that book.”

“Hearts in Atlantis” is the second story, and the best one in my opinion. The main character is Pete Riley, a freshman in UMaine, struggling to adapt to college lief, coping with a new reality – the Vietnam war – and its developments: is the war right or wrong? On what side should he be?

The portrayal of entering adult life in the sixties is very good and the character development is, once again, excellent. The fantasy elements don’t appear in “Hearts…”, and this story is as “reality” as it can be.

The story started off strong enough, but then slowly devolves into a hippy drippy diatribe railing against the Vietnam War.

Sometimes when you’re young, you have moments of such happiness, you think you’re living on someplace magical, like Atlantis must have been. Then we grow up and our hearts break into two.

The two next tales, “Blind Willie” and “Why we’re in Vietnam” are not as compelling as the first two, and much shorter. In each one of them, there’s practically only one character, and the stories deal with experiences and post-war consciences. Sadly, once the can of worms that is the Vietnam War was opened it became quite evident that this was to become the main focus of the rest of the stories.

I get it, brother, war is hell. Especially ones we should have never gotten tangled up in to begin with, and doubly so when they’re drafting unwilling participants into the shit-storm.

It was how wars really ended, Dieffenbaker supposed — not at truce tables but in cancer wards and office cafeterias and traffic jams. Wars died one tiny piece at a time, each piece something that fell like a memory, each lost like an echo that fades in winding hills. In the end even war ran up the white flag. Or so he hoped. He hoped that in the end even war surrendered.”

Live and let live, put John Lennon’s Imagine on an endless loop, that’s my motto. So please forgive me while I bury my head in the sand, but I don’t care to spend so much time thinking about that tragedy, which could have/should have been avoided, and all the lives lost to it. This story fell to a low 3 stars, for me.

Sometimes you think you can see around corners, and maybe you can

“Heavenly shades of night are falling” is the last one, only twenty pages long, and here we meet Bobby Garfield again, now as an adult that comes back to his childhood town. It’s a good wrap-it-up story to the book, but could be more developed. As happens with everything concerning the Dark Tower, there are lots of unanswered questions, leaving the reader in near-despair concerning the conclusion of the saga.

He and Sully dared each other to go on the Wild Mouse and finally went together, howling deliriously as their car plunged into each dip, simultaneously sure that they were going to live forever and die immediately

Stephen King delivers in “Hearts in Atlantis” a different pattern of writing. A step up the ladder. Throughout the five stories we see the the same theme take place in the characters that Golding gave us in Lord of the Flies. We have our young boys, stranded on an island to fend for themselves, slowly being overcome by their instincts, wildlings, feral. Chasing the pig, wanting to stick the spear up its ass, and finally when that doesn’t quite satiate the hunger of the beast, they turn on one another.

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