I missed out on reading Stephen King for much of my life. I think it was because I knew of him as a horror writer, and I am not a fan of horror. But I finally picked up his Dark Tower series, then began reading some of the books that tie in, and my mind has drastically changed. King is now one of my favorite writers.
Hearts in Atlantis is a wonderful book. It consists of two novellas and three short stories which all relate to one another. The first novella, Low Men in Yellow Coats, introduces us to Ted Brautigan, who shows up in the Dark Tower series. It tells the story of young Bobby Garfield and his friendship with Ted as Ted is chased by the evil men in yellow coats. This one is also the basis for the film Hearts in Atlantis (which I have never seen). Following this is the novella with the same title of the book, and is about a bunch of college kids obsessed with playing hearts. The problem is that if they play cards too often and neglect their studies, they may fail out of college and end up being sent to the war in Vietnam.
Really it is Vietnam which lurks behind all these stories and ties them all together. One of the short stories is about Bobby’s childhood friend fighting in the war. Finally, Bobby returns at the end in another short story. I don’t want to say this is King’s best book, but I will say if you’ve never read King because you do not like horror, this one may be for you.