Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King


“Hearts in Atlantis” by Stephen King was my first ‘adult’ book that I read in English so my take on it probably feels different as to what it’d feel if I read in Polish. It’s hard to describe the bilingualism really. Anyways…
Another book from our author is made of two novellas and three shirt stories all connected to each other by recurring characters and all roughly presented in the chronological way. It is really hard to say what this book is really about but it takes us for a confusing ride and it starts with ‘Low Men in Yellow Coats’.
We meet 12-years old Bobby who is a witness to traumatising events and who finds out a lot about past of his mother, a committed feminist, who not only appears to be greedy but also quite stupid- knowing that something horrible might happen to her, she insists on continuing with her plan.
Then the mother realises her mistakes but it is too late for Bobby, who as he grows older he stands up for one of his friends, Carol who was attacked by older boys, and beats one of them badly. And that is the beginning of ‘bad’ Bobby…
We move on and ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ takes us to a university in Maine where students protest against the war in Vietnam. That story narrated by Pete Riley slowly exposes us to threat and danger in moments of explosion of the rebel action.  Main character here is Carol who we met in first part whose boyfriend is Sad John who we met in first part as well.
‘Blind Willie’ sort of takes us back to first part when we meet one of the boys who attacked Carol. Titled Willie is shown to us in three parts, where first we see him as a grown man, living happily with his wife, then next we see his transformation into younger version of himself when he wants to redress the mistakes he made when he was younger and finally we meet Willie as ex soldier of Vietnam war, living on street as a beggar; a wreck of his younger self.
The story is happening through one day when we see how different versions of Willie try to make up for his previous mistakes, helplessly trying to change the past.
‘Why We’re in Vietnam’ presents us with a story of Sad John who met in the first part of the book. The same John who was Carol’s boyfriend… This time, John can’t escape all the thoughts and feelings the war in Vietnam brought to his soul. He nearly died there. His friend is haunted by thoughts of an old woman he killed while being in service. The killed lady accompanies John’s friend as a ghost through this surrealistic story where the end is quite strange.
Eventually the whole book ends with ‘Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling’ takes us to a time when Bobby comes back to his old home town after so many years to attend John’s funeral. He manages to find Carol who is so much changed by the experiences of life. Bobby explains he returned here as he received a copyrighted copy of a book, and despite the book coming from many years ago, the page being in pristine condition…
And that’s how we somehow arrive to this fairly confusing end of “Hearts in Atlantis”. As much as the beginning of reading was really involving and created the right, intriguing atmosphere, the closer to end I was, the more murky and complicated it was becoming, to some point slightly putting me off finishing the whole story.
I’m pretty sure many readers will find the whole five stories nicely connected and written in the right fashion but for me, something was missing there.
For those who are on Amazon Kindle and would like to grab an electronic copy they can find book here.