Dominica Phetteplace's Reviews > Hearts in Atlantis

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
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Jul 18, 11

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Read in July, 2011

Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of two novellas and three short stories. The first entry is the novella “Low Men in Yellow Coats.” It is the longest piece, about 250 pages and nearly half the book’s entire length. It is also the best, and the rest of the book suffers by comparison.
“Low Men in Yellow Coats” is set in the summer of 1960 and tells the story of eleven-year-old Bobby Garfield. It starts out nostalgic, there is baseball, b-movie matinees, a day at the carnival and a cute girl that has a crush on Bobby. There is a creeping dread around the edges, brief appearances from neighborhood bullies and whispers about pedophiles and the “Low Men” and the dread begins to build and build. Speculative elements are introduced, and magic begins to feel real and dangerous. Ray Bradbury is self-consciously namedropped. And then everything changes in a single, horrifying day. When it was finally over, it felt too short and I wanted more. It would turn out to be a long wait.
The next novella is “Hearts in Atlantis.” It’s the account of Pete Riley’s first year at the University of Maine in 1966. It mostly has to do with his gambling addiction (“Hearts” refers to the card game) and the anti-war sentiment that is beginning to spread around campus. I suspected that this was part memoir, and Stephen King hints as much in his afterward. It has, disappointingly, only a single character from the first novella. But there is no magic, no alternate realities, no dread, no nostalgia or even anti-nostalgia. It’s literary fiction. “Hearts” might have been a good read on its own, but it suffers by being placed after “Low Men.” Similar things can be said about the two short stories that follow that follow “Hearts.” It’s not until the last story that we get another look at Bobby Garfield, and by then it feels like too little, too late.
A character in the “Low Men” novella makes a mention of something called the “Dark Tower.” This drove me to wikipedia to confirm that, yes, this novella ties in to King’s Dark Tower series (which is described as a high-fantasy mix of Tolkien and the Wild West). Now I’m thinking about jumping in, even though the series is at eight books and counting, with a related Marvel Comics series with dozens of issues. Intriguing, and intimidating. But I really did enjoy “Low Men” a great deal.
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Lisa I actually read this book because at the time I was reading the dark tower series, and am so glad I did

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