My Dad gave me “Hearts in Atlantis” by Stephen King to read after he had read it and said it was very good. It’s a little different from books I normally read in that it is split into 5 stories, with each one shorter than the one before. There is some overlap of characters and there is also a time jump between most of them.
The first story is “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and is set in 1960. This story introduces the main set of characters who we then see pop up again in the following stories. There are also crossovers from this book to King’s “Dark Tower” series, which I am still yet to read. The main characters in this one really are Bobby Garfield, a young boy living with his Mum, and Ted Brautigan, an older man who has moved into the same building as the Garfields. There are also many supporting characters, most notable Bobby’s Mother, his best friend Sully-John and his girlfriend, Carol Gerber.
The second story is “Hearts in Atlantis” and is set in 1966. This introduces a new protagonist, Peter Riley, but sees the return of Carol Gerber from the previous story.
The third story is “Blind Willie” and is set in 1983. The only character in this really is Willie Shearman (who also goes by Bill and Blind Willie). Willie was a minor character in “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and crossed paths with Bobby, Sully-John and Carol.
The fourth story is “Why We’re in Vietnam” and is set in 1999. This is told from Sully-John’s perspective and we see what has happened to him since the Vietnam war.
The final story is “Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling”. This is also set in 1999 and returns to Bobby Garfield’s perspective.
Throughout the 5 stories we can see Carol’s life change dramatically from the care free childhood she appears to have in “Low Men in Yellow Coats”. This is mainly due to the Vietnam war and the fact that she starts to question why the war is taking place.
In “Low Men in Yellow Coats” Ted Brautigan gives Bobby Garfield a copy of “Lord of the Flies” to read and the book affects Bobby in a very profound way. You can then see some of the themes of “Lord of the Flies” throughout the other stories in this book. The way people can change, especially in a group, and how violence can easily seem to be a solution. I read “Lord of the Flies” when I was at secondary school as part of my English GCSE but haven’t read it since as I think the level of analysis I had to give as part of my GCSE kind of put me off reading it again. I have decided to give it another go after reading this though as it was obviously an influence on Stephen King.
All 5 stories were very well written and I especially liked seeing the same characters popping up in the different stories. It’s also given me another reminder that I really need to read the Dark Tower series at some point as I have read several of King’s books now that have contained a nod to this in some way.