Hearts In Atlantis

Hearts In Atlantis

Five interconnected, sequential tales set in the years between 1960 and 1999 center around the Vietnam War and weave together innocence, experience, truth, deceit, loss, and recovery.


  • Hardcover: 525 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684853515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684853512
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (753 customer reviews)
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  1. In his final novel of the 1990s, Stephen King has shut the door on his normal assortment of nightmares and created a series of stories that deals with another kind of horror. In Hearts in Atlantis, King writes about loss of innocence, struggles of conscience, and the Vietnam war.
    The first thing readers will notice is that Hearts in Atlantis is not a novel, but five stories. The first two are long novellas (which together constitute 400 pages), while the last story is a mere 13 pages long. But all of the stories are interconnected, spanning the lives of four Connecticut youths from their pre-teens in 1960 to 1999.
    The first story, “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” is traditional King. In fact, the story is something of a companion piece to King’s popular Dark Tower series. Here the reader is introduced to three kids, Bobby Garfield, Carol Gerber, and John “Sully-John” Sullivan. Although it doesn’t deal directly with the Vietnam war, it helps set the backdrop for the stories that follow.
    In the summer of 1960, eleven year-old Bobby takes first steps out of childhood innocence. He begins to see the evil of which men are truly capable, a parallel to the book Lord of the Flies, given to him by his new neighbor Ted Brautigan. But the old man has another kind of evil chasing him. The “low men” are tracking Ted and want him to return to their world, a place where “All things serve the Crimson King.”
    “Hearts in Atlantis,” the second story, changes to a first-person narrative. Pete Riley, a freshman at the University of Maine, and his friends become obsessed with the card game Hearts. Many jeopardize their grades and thus their scholarships as a result, but the real threat is greater than flunking out.Read more ›

  2. This short story cycle is packed with vivid, real characters that seem like you’ve known them all your life. King embodies different viewpoints masterfully, plausibly capturing the perspectives of innocent children, college revolutionaries, vietnam vets, and baby boomers.
    The first story, “Low Men in Yellow Coats,” kicks off the action but is the weakest of this strong set. It’s too tied into the Dark Tower series to seem as real as what follows. That said, it’s still scary and moving, it just won’t be as accessible to those who haven’t read the Dark Tower series.
    The remainder of the stories concentrate on real people in real situations with only a smattering of the supernatural. That’s not to say there’s no horror — Vietnam certainly qualifies — but this is the closest King’s gotten to straight fiction.
    What surprises literary types (and doesn’t surprise those who’ve actually read King) is how well he pulls it off. He gives us social commentary, believable, complex characters, and engrossing storylines without a single vampire or undead cat.
    I read this book in two sittings, then closed it and wiped away tears. King is not merely a fine horror writer, he’s a fine writer, period.

  3. I’ve been a constant reader of King’s since ‘Salem’s Lot (Gee… I guess that dates me). I’ve watched with growing wonder the changes in his style, the themes he tackles, etc. And I must say I’m rather annoyed at those who say he’s lost his touch or whine because he doesn’t write “real” horror anymore (what IS that, exactly?). Face it, folks — King is one of our greatest, most important writers. He isn’t just a “horror” writer, nor is he now trying to be a “literary” writer. For the most part he simply writes plain ol’ fiction — you know, the good stuff, or as he’s often called it, “the truth inside the lie.” He’s an original, and there’ll never be another with quite his narrative power again. Yes, his style may have changed a bit (but, hey, I thought life was supposed to be about change), but no one else can turn a phrase so it’ll stop your heart the way King does, or write a sentance that’s just so damned right it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Everyone needs to read this beautiful book about love and loss. The so-called “great American novel” might be a pipe-dream, but after you read this book you may not be so sure. If this ends up being King’s last novel, then it makes a fine capstone to a brillaint career. If not, then maybe the best is yet to come. Get well, Mr. King. As I said before, no one writes like you…

  4. With a novel as rich, delightful, and fascinating-in one word unputdownable-as this, no matter how hard you try to write a thorough review about it, it’s very likely that you will leave something out.
    The story begins while the main characters, Bobby Garfield, Carol Gerber and John Sullivan, childhood friends growing up together in a small American town, are eagerly expecting the coming summer vacations, unaware that before the summer is over their lives are going to be changed forever.
    Spanning four decades, the novel shows us how, though the eyes of a wide group of characters, directly and indirectly related to Bobby, Carol and John (Sully) and through their own eyes, their lives unfold.
    Stephen King’s narrative all through the book is at his best. He incorporates supernatural elements using his mastery of the craft and creates characters so humanly natural that they feel to the reader like old college friends. The experiences of the main characers are so well balanced between the quotidian and the extraordiary, that I almost felt this was a true story about real people. The supporting characters are so interesting that one cannot help wanting to meet them face to face and know more about how their lives unfold. The places are so richly and vividly described, and the time periods so pictorially represented through fashions, ideologies, settings, and even music, that you actually feel the richness and evolution of American culture as you read, even if you didn’t live through those times.
    Of everything this novel has to offer, what I liked the most, without a doubt, is its spectacular, believable, satisfying and sweet ending.
    This novel is charming, entertaining, surprising and fun, for both fans and non-fans of Stephen King, and for everyone who enjoys the twists and turns of life and the hidden connections between the lives of strangers. A must read.
    –Reviewed by M. E. Volmar

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