Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hearts In Atlantis

I just finished Stephen King's Hearts In Atlantis (672 pages) and, as a big King fan, very much enjoyed it... to a degree.

Although it isn't evident from the flap of the book (on the edition I read anyway) this book is a collection of 5 short stories/ novellas. The whole books spans from the 60s right up to the end of the 90s and each story has a small link to the others (mostly through characters).

The stories are;

1960 Low Men in Yellow Coats
Central Characters- Bobby Garfield, Ted Brautigan, Carol Gerber, John "Sully" Sullivan, and the 'St.Gabes Boys' (including Willie Shearman)

1966 Hearts in Atlantis
Central Characters- Peter Riley, Carol Gerber, Stokely "Stoke" Jones, Stanley "Skip" Kirk, Ronnie Malenfant, and Nathan "Nate" Hoppenstand

1983 Blind Willie
Central Characters- Willie Shearman and Carol Gerber (referenced in flash-backs)

1999 Why We're in Vietnam
Central Characters- John "Sully" Sullivan, Ronnie Malenfant (referenced in flash-backs), and Carol Gerber (referenced in flash-backs)

1999 Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling
Central Characters- Bobby Garfield and Carol Gerber

The first story, Low Men in Yellow Coats, fulfilled my urge to read something supernatural from Stephen King and a link to his Dark Tower series always warms me up inside. Although the action isn't the most gripping, King still (as always) kept the story interesting and also provided the basis for all the other four stories to make a lot more sense.

The things that holds all these five stories together is Vietnam (before, during and after). Due to not growing up in North America, I can't say that my knowledge of Vietnam is the greatest but the four stories following the initial story of Bobby Garfield gave it a 'face' that I haven't seen before.

My only disappointment was with the story Blind Willie. The action unfolds over a 24 hour period and instigates that the action that takes place over these 24 hours is like every day in Willie Shearman's life. This is most evident in the parallel between the very first line; "He wakes to music, always to music" (King 529), and the very last line; "the clock-radio wakes him to the sound of the "The Little Drummer Boy"" (King 589). This ties the story up nicely but leaves one empty question (and that is where my disappointment stems from) is what is Willie planning to do in the following weeks as he thinks to himself; "There is no need for [his wife] to know what Willie Slocum may be doing the week before New Year's" (King 588). Yes, Willie's wife may not need to know, but I do!
Then again, I might pick up a King novel in the near future and find the answer I am looking for, until then I guess I'll wait.

The whole story is wrapped up very nicely in the final segment, Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, leaving me quite satisfied.

Hearts In Atlantis isn't a very typical King book and shows a reflection of where his story telling will lead in the 2000s (with books like Duma Key, Lisey's Story, and Blaze (although technically a Bachman book)). Even though the book was great, I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for those Stephen King 'newbies' as I believe a lot of my appreciation stemmed from my previous enjoyment of his work.

The edition I read was ISBN: 0-671-02424-8

King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis. New York: First Pocket Books, 2000. Print.

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