I delight in digging into Stephen King books, and ones I haven’t read are becoming fewer and far between, Hearts in Atlantis, however, was one I hadn’t read before. Composed of two novellas and three short stories this is King taking on the 60s, and examines it as only King could, with an ear for dialogue, the nostalgia that seems to seep off the page, and his own wonderful writing style.
And, of course, not to mention that the first story and the final one brush up against the Dark Tower mythology, and that is just cool, as it just seems to make it an ever expanding universe.
There’s also the possibility that one of the characters crosses pathes with an incarnation of Randall Flagg.
The first part of the book joins young Bobby Garfield in Connecticut, where he and his mother are getting by, when a man named Ted Brautigan rents a room in the house they live in. Ted and Booby become friends, and the older man asks Bobby to keep an eye out for low men in yellow coats.
These low men aren’t what they seem, of course, and the markings they leave around the town for their hunt seem benign, but as they start to pile up, become truly unnerving.
It seems, Ted is a Breaker, and has escaped from somewhere else, where he is working on breaking the beams that support the worlds and are connected to the Dark Tower.
This story perfectly blends the wonder of childhood, growing up, 60s nostalgia, and King’s own creative mythology. He also sets up a number of things that will impact the stories and characters through the rest of the book.
Including the injury of his young friend Carol but a trio of thugs, the theft of a baseball glove, and the sundering of a childhood friendship.
The other stories bump into some of the characters from the first tale, or are those characters later in life, and we see the 60s from a number of points of view, youth, Vietnam, college, the anti-war movement, and the lives that were affected by all of it.
But through it all, there are moments of wonder, and delight, also contrasted by moments of pathos, pain, and tragedy. This is King writing at the top of his game, marrying the horror of worlds he’s created with the melange of the 1960s – a turbulent time that affected the world, had the potential to change the world for the better, and as Peter Fonda put it in Easy Rider, ‘We blew it.’
This was a great read, I loved all the stories, loved how the book tied up, but most of all, loved how it tied into The Dark Tower.
Great book, Mr. King!