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Hearts in Atlantis - Stephen King

Hearts in Atlantis

Paperback

Published: 1st August 2000
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"ALTHOUGH IT IS DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE, THE SIXTIES ARE NOT FICTIONAL; THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED."*

Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974, the year before the last U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam, is the first hugely popular writer of the TV generation. Images from that war--and the protests against it--had flooded America's living rooms for a decade. Hearts in Atlantis, King's newest fiction, is composed of five interconnected, sequential narratives, set in the years from 1960 to 1999. Each story is deeply rooted in the sixties, and each is haunted by the Vietnam War.

In Part One, "Low Men in Yellow Coats", eleven-year-old Bobby Garfield discovers a world of predatory malice in his own neighborhood. He also discovers that adults are sometimes not rescuers but at the heart of the terror.

In the title story, a bunch of college kids get hooked on a card game, discover the possibility of protest...and confront their own collective heart of darkness, where laughter may be no more than the thinly disguised cry of the beast.

In "Blind Willie" and "Why We're in Vietnam", two men who grew up with Bobby in suburban Connecticut try to fill the emptiness of the post-Vietnam era in an America which sometimes seems as hollow - and as haunted - as their own lives.

And in "Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling", this book's denouement, Bobby returns to his hometown where one final secret, the hope of redemption, and his heart's desire may await him.

Full of danger, full of suspense, most of all full of heart, Stephen King's new book will take some readers to a place they have never been...and others to a place they have never been able to completely leave.

*from the Author's Note.

About the Author

Few authors have tapped into our secret fears as adeptly as Stephen King, Master of the Macabre and one of the most widely read novelists writing today. With his trademark blend of fantasy, horror, and psychological suspense, this prolific and immensely popular contemporary writer continues to remind us that evil is still a potent force in the world.

"Engaging....King's gift of storytelling is rich".

-- Los Angeles Times Book Review

I. A Boy and His Mother. Bobby's Birthday.

The New Roomer. Of Time and Strangers.

Bobby Garfield's father had been one of those fellows who start losing their hair in their twenties and are completely bald by the age of forty-five or so. Randall Garfield was spared this extremity by dying of a heart attack at thirty-six. He was a real-estate agent, and breathed his last on the kitchen floor of someone else's house. The potential buyer was in the living room, trying to call an ambulance on a disconnected phone, when Bobby's dad passed away. At this time Bobby was three. He had vague memories of a man tickling him and then kissing his cheeks and his forehead. He was pretty sure that man had been his dad. Sadly missed, it said on Randall Garfield's gravestone, but his mom never seemed all that sad, and as for Bobby himself...well, how could you miss a guy you could hardly remember?

Eight years after his father's death, Bobby fell violently in love with the twenty-six-inch Schwinn in the window of the Harwich Western Auto. He hinted to his mother about the Schwinn in every way he knew, and finally pointed it out to her one night when they were walking home from the movies (the show had been The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, which Bobby didn't understand but liked anyway, especially the part where Dorothy McGuire flopped back in a chair and showed off her long legs). As they passed the hardware store, Bobby mentioned casually that the bike in the window would sure make a great eleventh-birthday present for some lucky kid.

"Don't even think about it," she said. "I can't afford a bike for your birthday. Your father didn't exactly leave us well off, yo u know."

Although Randall had been dead ever since Truman was President and now Eisenhower was almost done with his eight-year cruise, Your father didn't exactly leave us well off was still his mother's most common response to anything Bobby suggested which might entail an expenditure of more than a dollar. Usually the comment was accompanied by a reproachful look, as if the man had run off rather than died.

No bike for his birthday. Bobby pondered this glumly on their walk home, his pleasure at the strange, muddled movie they had seen mostly gone. He didn't argue with his mother, or try to coax her -- that would bring on a counterattack, and when Liz Garfield counterattacked she took no prisoners -- but he brooded on the lost bike...and the lost father. Sometimes he almost hated his father. Sometimes all that kept him from doing so was the sense, unanchored but very strong, that his mother wanted him to. As they reached Commonwealth Park and walked along the side of it -- two blocks up they would turn left onto Broad Street, where they lived -- he went against his usual misgivings and asked a question about Randall Garfield.

"Didn't he leave anything, Mom? Anything at all?" A week or two before, he'd read a Nancy Drew mystery where some poor kid's inheritance had been hidden behind an old clock in an abandoned mansion. Bobby didn't really think his father had left gold coins or rare stamps stashed someplace, but if there was something, maybe they could sell it in Bridgeport. Possibly at one of the hockshops. Bobby didn't know exactly how hocking things worked, but he knew what the shops looked like -- they had three gold balls hanging out front. And he was sure the hocksho p guys would be happy to help them. Of course it was just a kid's dream, but Carol Gerber up the street had a whole set of dolls her father, who was in the Navy, had sent from overseas. If fathers gave things -- which they did -- it stood to reason that fathers sometimes left things.

When Bobby asked the question, they were passing one of the streetlamps which ran along this side of Commonwealth Park, and Bobby saw his mother's mouth change as it always did when he ventured a question about his late father. The change made him think of a purse she had: when you pulled on the drawstrings, the hole at the top got smaller.

"I'll tell you what he left," she said as they started up Broad Street Hill. Bobby already wished he hadn't asked, but of course it was too late now. Once you got her started, you couldn't get her stopped, that was the thing. "He left a life insurance policy which lapsed the year before he died. Little did I know that until he was gone and everyone -- including the undertaker -- wanted their little piece of what I didn't have. He also left a large stack of unpaid bills, which I have now pretty much taken care of -- people have been very understanding of my situation, Mr. Biderman in particular, and I'll never say they haven't been."

All this was old stuff, as boring as it was bitter, but then she told Bobby something new. "Your father," she said as they approached the apartment house which stood halfway up Broad Street Hill, "never met an inside straight he didn't like."

"What's an inside straight, Mom?"

"Never mind. But I'll tell you one thing, Bobby-O: you don't ever want to let me catch you playing cards for money. I've had enough of that to last me a lifetime."

Bobby wanted to enquire further, but knew better; more questions were apt to set off a tirade. It occurred to him that perhaps the movie, which had been about unhappy husbands and wives, had upset her in some way he could not, as a mere kid, understand. He would ask his friend John Sullivan about inside straights at school on Monday. Bobby thought it was poker, but wasn't completely sure.

"There are places in Bridgeport that take men's money," she said as they neared the apartment house where they lived. "Foolish men go to them. Foolish men make messes, and it's usually the women of the world that have to clean them up later on. Well..."

Bobby knew what was coming next; it was his mother's all-time favorite.

"Life isn't fair," said Liz Garfield as she took out her housekey and prepared to unlock the door of 149 Broad Street in the town of Harwich, Connecticut. It was April of 1960, the night breathed spring perfume, and standing beside her was a skinny boy with his dead father's risky red hair. She hardly ever touched his hair; on the infrequent occasions when she caressed him, it was usually his arm or his cheek which she touched.

"Life isn't fair," she repeated. She opened the door and they went in.

ISBN: 9780671024246
ISBN-10: 0671024248
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 688
Published: 1st August 2000
Dimensions (cm): 17.4 x 10.7  x 3.7
Weight (kg): 0.32