This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

As part of two book challenges in my goodreads book club, the Stephen King and Big Book challenge, this became my first of the Stephen King challenge of the year.

Before I start on my take of the book - no offense to my face-to-face book club - I love it. But this goodreads book club is stellar. How I was picked, I don't know (well, it has to do with my goodreads activity, which is pretty active) but it has opened up a whole new world in virtual book clubs. I tried to start one - and am still trying - but, yeah, no where is it close to what this book club can - and does - do.

It's a book club for women who love to read. The group spans across Canada and the US. There are a great number of book reads going on in one month that you can choose to participate in or not, and then the discussions are there to join in, or not. Also, there are other discussions about TV shows, introduce yourself, "Did you know" - which is along the lines of 'Did you know this unusual thing about me', anything at all, not related to books. And someone will always join in the discussion. It's a great, positive, immediate bond in friendship among a very large group (I have no idea how many there are in the group...hundreds?) of women. It is the epitome of an online community that is what Facebook can be without the flamers.

Within this variety of activities are several challenges that you can sign up for anytime. I signed up for the "Across the Map" challenge as soon as I joined ( invitation only...which is why it's a small but large but small and active-participatory group), which is reading a book set in every state, province of Canada, and other countries that we end up reading.  I have 11 unique places; the Moral Instruments series took place in only one real place and well, Stephen King doesn't venture much out of Maine, so I may not get too far into my map challenge.

And now the Stephen King challenge - read 'all' of Stephen King's books. Well, we'll see but since I'm a fan, I'll be reading as many as I can...and re-reading quite a few more. And the Big Book challenge is reading books over 450 pages...not a problem with the SK challenge.

All of these are logged right on the site for all to see and admire. It's an introvert's, social network lover, book obsessor's dream.

So, to the book...with spoilers to come.

I saw the movie several years ago. And while I only remember vague bits of it, I remember being surprised and moved by the movie.

If you're a King fan, you'll love it. But if you're a King fan, you could hate it. If you're expectation is pure horror, similar to his other wonderful, odd works, well, you'll be sadly disappointed. If you, on the other hand, enjoy King's descriptive take into the minds of his characters, then you'll enjoy it.  It's a story. Plain and simple. Well. As plain and simple as the mind of Stephen King can be, which is, in my fandom opinion, is pretty cool.

The novel reminded me of Pulp Fiction: there are five sections that are separate stories BUT have a connection to each other. They also span several years: the first, 1960; second 1966; third 1983; and the fourth and fifth both take place in 1999. They start and stop with the same main characters.

Those main characters being Bobby Garfield and Carol Gerber. We meet them in 1960, as 11 year olds in the small town of Harwich, Connecticut. Bobby's mom is a bitter, strict woman who rents out her third floor 'apartment' to the mysterious Ted (played by Anthony Hopkins in the movie, who is all I saw in this character whilst reading).

Ted and Bobby develop a special friendship, including, the ability to read each other's minds. Ted hires Bobby to look for signs around the town, that the Low men in Yellow Coats are coming for him (Ted). These signs include: hopscotch drawings that include stars and moon next to them, or lost pet posters that have "call Iroquois", kite tails hanging from telephone lines, or the downtown clock ringing at odd hours. This was Bobby's job because these would be the sign that the Low Men in Yellow Coats were close to getting to Ted.

During this summer and the lookout for the signs, Carol and Bobby go through their own developing fondness for each other, as well as an act of violence against Carol that shows amazing heroism on Bobby's part. It's all a bizarre story but it gets worked out and in the end, Ted gets captured by the Low Men in Yellow Coats and Bobby and his mom move out of Harwich and Carol and Bobby eventually lose touch with one another.

In 1966, we meet Pete Riley at the University of Maine. He and several others live in Chamberlain Hall, where many were riding on a variety of scholarships and loans. All were in school and not in Vietnam. Flunking out meant almost a definite send off to the war, so keep them grades up and you'll be A-OK.

But no. What we have in this chapter are a bunch of boys who get addicted to the game of Hearts and, instead of studying, doing homework, or even going to class, end up playing Hearts constantly. Many start flunking out. And Pete and many of his pals are on the verge of flunking. And knowing the consequences, they still don't stop; can't stop.

Carol Gerber, from 1960, is Pete's girlfriend. We see them become the adults they become: Carol becomes an anti-war protestor; Pete manages to pull up his britches and get out of the Hearts addiction and get back to his education.

1983 we meet Blind Willie. This one was an odd one. Willie is a war veteran who comes into work dressed in a suit and tie. He greets folks pretty steely. Gets to his office, locks the door, crawls up into floor above, undresses, then dresses into another uniform, leaves _that_ office, greets folks very warmly, ends up in another building, goes into its bathroom, undresses in there, and puts on another outfit, and comes out as Blind Willie...where he panhandles for the rest of the day. And apparently, makes a lot of thousands. As he does all of this, he recounts his days, especially THE day at the 'ville, where Ronnie Malenfant (who was a Hearts addict that flunked out of the University of Maine in 1960) and John-Sully (a BFF to Bobby Garfield and Carol Gerber, and eventually, a beau to Carol Gerber in high school) served with him.

In 1999, John-Sully goes to Blind Willie Shearman's funeral. There we learn the details of the tragedy of the 'ville in Vietnam. After a tragic shoot down by the viet cong of U.S. helicopters, and a few comrades also being killed, Ronnie Malenfant and others went crazy. So crazy that they went into one of the villages ('ville) and started killing the locals. John-Sully is haunted by one: the mamas an that Malenfant stuck a bayonet in. She has been following John-Sully for years and eventually, faded back but after Blind Willie's funeral, she is now sitting beside him in his car, on his way back home (there's the creepy King stuff). Then some real whacky stuff happens. And then, John-Sully dies.

The last part we finally get to see Bobby Garfield again. No one knows what's happened to him since he moved from Harwich. In fact, since Carol became an active anti-war protestor, she hasn't been seen either. The last known whereabouts is that she died in a house fire...a protest action gone wrong.

Bobby has come to John-Sully's funeral. He has a gift from Ted. Ted - who should be about 100-and-something years old. And with the Low Men in the Yellow Coats. But Ted is special. And not of this world. Bobby goes to the ball field where Carol consoled him, where the tragedy struck Carol, where John-Sully and he played baseball. And who joins him? Carol. But she's no longer known as Carol. Carol 'died' in the house fire. She has a new life. And it ends with them sitting together on the bench.

Whew. I summarized the entire book. I had to do that because, one day, I'll want to remember what the book was about and, well, I guess I did my wikipedia version.

I loved it. I want to see the movie again. I don't remember any part of the last four sections being in the book, so I think the movie is based on 1960. Don't tell me. Let me be re-surprised.

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