Summary and book reviews of Hearts In Atlantis by Stephen King

Hearts In Atlantis

by Stephen King

Hearts In Atlantis
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  • First Published:
    Sep 1999, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2000, 624 pages

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Book Summary

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.

Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam, is the first hugely popular writer of the TV generation. Images from that war -- and the protests against it -- had flooded America's living rooms for a decade. Hearts in Atlantis, King's newest fiction, is composed of 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.

In Part One, "Low Men in Yellow Coats," eleven-year-old Bobby Garfield discovers a world of predatory malice in his own neighborhood. He also discovers that adults are sometimes not rescuers but at the heart of the terror.

In the title story, a bunch of college kids get hooked on a card game, discover the possibility of protest...and confront their own collective heart of darkness, where laughter may be no more than the thinly disguised cry of the beast.

In "Blind Willie" and "Why We're in Vietnam," two men who grew up with Bobby in suburban Connecticut try to fill the emptiness of the post-Vietnam era in an America which sometimes seems as hollow -- and as haunted -- as their own lives.

And in "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling," this remarkable book's denouement, Bobby returns to his hometown where one final secret, the hope of redemption, and his heart's desire may await him.

Full of danger, full of suspense, most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been...and others to a place they have never been able to completely leave.

I. A Boy and His Mother.
Bobby's Birthday.

The New Roomer. Of Time and Strangers.

Bobby Garfield's father had been one of those fellows who start losing their hair in their twenties and are completely bald by the age of forty-five or so. Randall Garfield was spared this extremity by dying of a heart attack at thirty-six. He was a real-estate agent, and breathed his last on the kitchen floor of someone else's house. The potential buyer was in the living room, trying to call an ambulance on a disconnected phone, when Bobby's dad passed away. At this time Bobby was three. He had vague memories of a man tickling him and then kissing his cheeks and his forehead. He was pretty sure that man had been his dad. Sadly missed, it said on Randall Garfield's gravestone, but his mom never seemed all that sad, and as for Bobby himself...well, how could you miss a guy you could hardly remember?

Eight years after his father's death, Bobby fell violently in love with...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Hearts in Atlantis traces several characters from childhood through college and into adulthood. How does King explore the maturation process? In King's fiction, what distinguishes childhood from adulthood? In becoming adults, what do we lose? What do we gain? Does the book suggest that "growing up" means something unique to each generation?

  2. Why does the escalating war -- and the possibility of the students being drafted -- form an eerie backdrop to the title story "Hearts in Atlantis"? In what way is the Hearts tournament a metaphor for the Vietnam War?

  3. How does the supernatural element in "Low Men in Yellow Coats" set the stage for the rest of the collection, which increasingly shifts its focus toward Vietnam? What effect ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Village Voice

The secret of King's success is not that he writes so well about monsters and ghosts, but that he writes so persuasively about us.

The New York Times Book Review

Shows off King's traditional strengths: his empathy with chidren's chrushes and fears, his insight into the telepathic-seeming emotional hothouse of a small, isolated family and his ability to summon dread out of plain and familiar things.

Newsweek

Thoughtful and scary tales.

Kirkus Reviews

King's fat new work impressively follows his general literary upgrading begun with Bag of Bones and settles readers onto the seabottom of one of his most satisfying ideas ever.....Page after page, a truly mature King does everything right and deserves some kind of literary rosette.

Reader Reviews

Ksyvarth

My Heart is in Atlantis
I first read this book eight years ago, when I was a mere 13 years of age. It was the second work by Stephen King that I had read, and I was hooked on the first page. The magic that wasn't in the middle -- but around the edges -- has captivated me ...   Read More

stephen

This is a fantastic book. One of the best I have ever read. The characters appear so human and fragile while at the same time they are heroic and larger than life. For someone who is too young to know anything about the 60's and Vietnam, this book ...   Read More

Jessica

I've not even read all the book yet and I am attached, I am only 14 years old and this is the longest book I've ever read but no dout the best, I love the way he puts such great detail in it and makes you feel as if you are really there! The book has...   Read More

Summer

I loved this book, it is 672 pages long but I read it 4 times. For some reason this book touched a place in my heart and I cried...When Stephen King goes from an awesome horror writer to a touching author he does his best.

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