Hearts in Atlantis is probably the best Stephen King bestseller people will never read. Its five interconnected stories probe 1960s history as experienced in small towns by baby boomer Americans who remember the draft.
“Low Men in Yellow Coats” is about Bobby Garfield, age 11 in 1960, being raised by his widowed mother in Harwich, Connecticut. A man who moves into the third-floor apartment introduces Bobby to The Lord of the Flies. His summer experiences teach him that evil isn’t confined to novels.
Next, the title story is about college kids—Bobby isn’t among them—who get hooked on playing the card game Hearts for a nickel-a-point, oblivious to the Vietnam War and how academic failure could kill them. The main character in this story straightens out only after watching—and laughing at—a disabled student who risked expulsion and possibly death from exposure to hang an antiwar message decorated with peace signs on a campus building.
A final three stories explore the post-war experiences of Bobby and other boys from Harwich.
Millennials and Generation Z readers, if they know what books are, won’t read Hearts in Atlantis: There’s no supernatural here. All the terrifying elements are expressions of human nature.
Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
Scribner. ©1999. 523 p.
1999 bestseller #6; my grade: A
©2020 Linda G. Aragoni