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Hearts In Atlantis

Hearts In Atlantis

  • reading group guide
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 remarkable 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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684844909 | 
  • September 1999
List Price $8.99

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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide: Discussion Questions
1. Hearts in Atlantis traces several characters from childhood through college and into adulthood. How does King explore the maturation process? In King's fiction, what distinguishes childhood from adulthood? In becoming adults, what do we lose? What do we gain? Does the book suggest that "growing up" means something unique to each generation?
2. Why does the escalating war -- and the possibility of the students being drafted -- form an eerie backdrop to the title story "Hearts in Atlantis"? In what way is the Hearts tournament a metaphor for the Vietnam War?
3. How does the supernatural element in "Low Men in Yellow Coats" set the stage for the rest of the collection, which increasingly shifts its focus toward Vietnam? What effect does King achieve by pairing supernatural horror with the human horrors of war? What does the book suggest is more disturbing: actual events, or the inventions of our wildest imaginations?
4. Books play an important role for certain characters, Lord of the Flies for Ted, Bobby, Carol, and Pete, and The Sun Also Rises for Sully. Why are these books important to them? What do they reveal to them about the world we live in? What books have been important to you and why? What does Hearts in Atlantis show us about the world we live in?
5. There are many tender and funny passages in this book coupled with disturbing descriptions of war, human cruelty, and loss of see more

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About the Author

Stephen King
Photograph © Shane Leonard

Stephen King

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Mr. Mercedes, Doctor Sleep, and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

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