Don’t we look like something straight off Carnaby Street, London? I’m the one in the tunic with bare feet. My sister is in the hot pants. The picture must have been taken about 1968--the year of the Tet offensive in Viet Nam, the Chicago riots, and assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. My favorite singing group was Peter, Paul and Mary (not the Beatles.)
Hearts in Atlantis was my first Stephen King book other than On Writing (a wonderful memoir combined with writing advice.)
I’m not a fan of horror—there is enough awful stuff in the world without making it up; just look at Haiti!—but I heard this wasn’t like his other books. It was weird in places, but more like brilliantly-written speculative fiction. The real story isn’t the supernatural, but the lives of the Viet Nam generation—my generation—and how the years between the deaths of John Kennedy and John Lennon affected us.
We lost our way in free love and drugs. We went from the idealism of longing for something more than what we saw as the trite suburbanism of our parents to something very similar and far more empty. After all, our parents had found meaning in surviving the Great Depression and fighting the Nazis. They are what Tom Brokaw calls “The Great Generation.” And us? We rejected God and tried to “do our own thing” and so rejected what would have given meaning to the experiences that history threw at us. And after all our counter-culture talk and revolutionary acts we ended up buried in cell phones, microwave ovens and garden ornaments. King has a scene near the end of the book when all these things and more come raining from the sky to crush the people in their cars stalled on the highway. His symbolism is obvious, but effective.
There are those of my generation who didn’t fry their brains on drugs, strip their souls or throw away their bodies, jumping from bed to bed. I have met them all over the world, building hospitals in Ethiopia, teaching school in Pakistan, distributing used clothing to the destitute in Mozambique and funding micro-industries in Indonesia. Some of them are in Haiti, as you read this. Their actions are not as flashy as spray-painting peace signs on the side of college dorms or throwing rocks at Chicago cops during the Democratic National Convention, but in the end they are far more effective at changing the world. The people I met do it, not for the Age of Aquarius or for King’s lost Atlantis, but for the Kingdom of God.
Hearts in Atlantis is well worth the read. I listened to the audio-book, read in part, by King himself. But I’m glad it isn’t all there is.
My daughters are from a different generation. Other events have impacted their view of the world and their place in it. What events have most impacted your generation, and where have you found meaning in them?
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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