While appears to be like other Stephen King story collections such as Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons, it is vastly different as well. For while the stories are separate (and some are actually novellas instead of stories), each story works almost like a chapter, providing the reader with a narrative thread throughout the book.
Set within the year 1960 is the first story, Low Men in Yellow Coats, which introduces us to eleven year old Bobby Garfield. When a new tenant, Ted Brautigan, moves into the apartment complex in which Bobby and his mother live, Bobby strikes up a friendship with the older man, much to his mother’s dismay. As the two grow more acquainted with each other and their trust within each other deepens, Ted reveals to Bobby that men known as “Low Men” are pursuing him. Asking Bobby to keep an eye out for the Low Men’s tell-tale signs such as signs depicting missing pets, Bobby begins to notice the signs appearing nearby. Bobby struggles with whether he should tell Ted or not. It is the decision that Bobby makes that leads the story to its climax and bittersweet conclusion.
The second story and the book’s namesake, Hearts in Atlantis, takes place six years after Low Men in Yellow Coats and also involves one of the characters from the previous story, Carol Gerber. The story’s main character, however, is Peter Riley, a college student obsessed with the game of Hearts. As war rages in Vietnam and his friends disappear to the far corners of the earth, he falls deeper into his obsession.
The next two stories, Blind Willie and Why We’re in Vietnam, deal with the issue of war and Vietnam specifically. In Blind Willie, we’re reintroduced to a character by the name of Willie Sherman and his quest to reconcile some past events in his life. Why We’re in Vietnam tells the story of two Vietnam war vets who meet once again at the funeral for a lost comrade.
It is within the last story, Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling, where all vague connections between the previous four stories collide as the characters look back on the past from the year of 1999. This story also ties into King’s Dark Tower series fusing the two worlds together perfectly.
is a heartbreaking work touched by fantasy. While many King fans might find the collection jarring when comparing it to King’s past works, many readers will learn to appreciate a new side of King that truly cocoons his readers within his words.
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