Hearts In Atlantis is a 1999 published book by celebrated author Stephen King. It consists of 2 novellas and 3 short stories, each in chronological order and connected to each other. King’s depiction of the 1960’s generation, in his view, as promising so much yet under-achieving is evident here as is the looming figure of the Vietnam War and its prolonged effect. The novel starts with the story of Bobby Garfield, a 11 year old boy, whose widowed mother is subjected to sexual torture by her boss & his cronies. Bobby befriends the newcomer in town, Ted an elderly man who is hiding from the low men in yellow coats. This novella is the only part in which the horror/sci-fi/supernatural element appears, albeit in small doses. John Sullivan & Carol Gerber are Bobby’s childhood friends. In the second novella, narrated by Peter Riley, we learn of a group of college students who while their time away playing Hearts, an addictive card game for pennies. Carol is the now 18 year old girl who Pete falls for. Getting good grades in college, which is a kind of Atlantis, is the only escape from the army draft & the Vietnam war.
Next is Will Shearman, a Vietnam war veteran, who disguises himself as a blind beggar making hundreds of dollars in donations. He keeps the bills for himself and gives the rest to charities. Will, who saved John’s life in Vietnam, used to be Willie, a bully who picked on John, Carol & Bobby.
Next we see John Sullivan, much older going to the funeral of a fellow Nam vet and speaking about why they were in the war with another veteran. On his way back, Sullivan dies of an heart attack while stuck in a traffic jam. This leads us to the conclusion and last story – Bobby Garfield returns to his hometown to attend Sullivan’s funeral. This is his first visit in 40 years, yet he finds closure to his relationships with Carol Gerber and Ted Brautigan.
The first novella was adapted into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins in 2001 called Hearts In Atlantis.