Book Review: Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

Hearts in Atlantis is a story by Stephen King that centers around a trio of young friends who grow up in the pre-Vietnam era. Two of these friends are traumatized by bullies, both from their reality and outside of it, in their youth. The third is traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam and is hurt by the anti-war behavior of one of his friends. All of them lose touch in their adulthood, but they carry the stigma of their relationships and experiences with them through the end of the novel.

The first part of Hearts in Atlantis is the most typical of Stephen King. It is directly connected to his Dark Tower series and contains a lot of the best and worst of people, coupled with the supernatural. This part of the story follows friends Bobby, Carol and Sully-John, but centers around Bobby, his mother and Bobby's elderly friend, Ted. There is something strange about Ted that winds up affecting all of them, save Sully-John. Ted's influence on Bobby and the experiences of the first part of the novel are apparent through Hearts in Atlantis.

The second part of the story is that for which Hearts in Atlantis is named. It follows a group of college students who are destroying their education by playing Hearts religiously. All around them, the world is going to hell. Kids their age are off in Vietnam. Students around them are protesting the war in dangerous ways. This was not as good as the first part. However, it really makes one think about the danger of complacency, as well as the sh*tstorm that was the Vietnam era. Reading Hearts in Atlantis makes you wonder what was scarier, the war or those who protested it. Stephen King shows a real understanding of the duality of war and protestation.

The third part of Hearts in Atlantis follows a man who grew up in the same town as Bobby, Carol and Sully-John. He is punishing himself for something he did when Sully-John, Carol and Bobby were growing up. He is also obviously unwell after spending time in Vietnam with Sully-John. This part also follows Sully-John and how badly he is coping with his P.T.S.D. and hatred for an old friend. Stephen King does a decent job of portraying the evils of PTSD. It is usually hard for those of us who have never suffered it to truly understand. However, I have to say that a combat vet might disagree with me. Nonetheless, it is evident that Stephen gave it his best shot.

The fourth part of Hearts in Atlantis is the culmination of the most important relationships of the novel. It deals with death and unlikely reunions. It is not the most satisfying of endings, but anyone who reads Stephen King enough knows that the end of a book is not necessarily the end of the story. The Dark Tower is still standing, after all.

Shelly Barclay

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