“Hearts in Atlantis is the second book I read for the War Through the Generations - Vietnam War challenge. When I was choosing the books to read for this challenge, I picked this one simply because it is written by Stephen King and I love his books. My plan is to read all his books, eventually!
This book is made up of five novellas mostly based in the 60's, where Atlantis is essentially America. In the first novella, "Low Men in Yellow Coats", Bobby is a normal eleven year old who hangs out with his best friends Carol and Sully-John. When his new neighbor Ted moves in, Bobby finds a friend in the old man as they share their love for books and Bobby is introduced to Lord of the Flies. From there Bobby learns of the true evil some people are capable of and takes his first steps towards adolescence. Although this is not directly related to the Vietnam war, it prepares you for what's coming next.
The second one, "Hearts in Atlantis", is narrated by Pete. Currently a freshman at the University of Maine, Pete and his friends become addicted to playing Hearts and are risking flunking out, which at that time meant being drafted for Vietnam. In this story, Carol has moved from Connecticut and goes to the same University as Pete, but Carol has changed a lot since her adventures with Bobby and Sully-John.
In "Blind Willie", Willie Shearman is a Vietnam veteran who is doing penance for the biggest misdeeds he committed in his life, helping to beat Carol when he was a bully in his adolescence and the atrocities he committed in Vietnam.
"Why We're in Vietnam" details Sully-John's post-war experience when he attends a funeral of one of his fellow veterans. Even though a few years have gone by, Sully-John is still haunted by his experience in the Vietnam war, and especially by old mamasan, a Vietnamese woman that he has watched being brutally killed. Old mamasan visits him often and does so one last time as he's stuck in a traffic jam driving back from the funeral.
Finally, "Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling" is the closing story in which Bobby returns to Connecticut to pay his last respects to his childhood friend. He is looking for answers and perhaps for redemption, when he meets Carol once again and discovers the fate of his friends.
Hearts In Atlantis is not what King is usually famous for, i.e. horror and gory scenes but it reminds me more of Different Seasons by him, however I enjoyed this book much more. I started to like it from the very beginning and could not put it down until I finished it. My favorite story was definitely the first one, I loved the young Bobby and Ted and would have liked to see more of both characters in the other stories. The first novella also contains references to The Dark Tower series, which I have not yet read so far but after this book I am eager to find out more about it. The references to Vietnam are not always direct, but it gives you a lot to think about and more than once I had to stop and digest what I just read on how the Vietnam war divided the country and the repercussions that came after. King's style of writing in this book is as good as ever, he really cannot be beaten in that regard, every time I read a novel by him I remember why I like this author so much!”
Arielle wrote this review Wednesday, October 20, 2010.