Monday, February 20, 2012

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

Stephen King, master of the horror genre, is not for everyone. The subject matter can be too frightening, gory or disturbing and the length of some of his most recent novels can be, in a word, intimidating. Even a die-hard King fan like myself balked at the 800+ page length of his latest book, 11/22/63.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, at an approachable 223 pages, could be called "King light." Although that isn't to say that this suspenseful, fast-paced story doesn't have its horrific moments. The novel follows 9-year-old Trisha McFarland as she wanders away from her family during a hike on the Maine-New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Trail. Trisha quickly becomes lost in the dense woods, and spends nine days alone trying to find her way back, all the while being stalked by a malevolent presence that leaves slaughtered animals and mangled trees in her path.

For comfort, Trisha tunes her Walkman to a broadcast of a Red Sox game, featuring her favorite relief pitcher Tom Gordon. But the radio's reception fades, and hunger, dehydration and exhaustion inevitably set in. Trisha begins to imagine that Gordon is with her, drawing on the strength of his companionship to guide her through the swamps, steep cliffs and swarming insects she must pass through to find her way back to civilization.

King has always written children well, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is no exception. The narrative of Trisha's harrowing journey is interspersed with recalled conversations with her recently separated parents, making us truly empathize with this resourceful girl. Themes of God and faith appear throughout, as does King's love of baseball - the story is divided into chapters named for the game's innings. At the "Bottom of the Ninth", Trisha finally confronts what she has begun calling The God of the Lost in a satisfying and poignant ending.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon has also been condensed and made into a pop-up book (available through ILL). While perhaps not suitable for children, it's an entertaining follow-up for those who have already read the full-length novel.

~ Allison

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