Published in 1999, Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a book that gets very varied reviews with some people hailing it a masterpiece, while other people have called it plain boring. Certainly, the plot of a young girl wandering around the woods her own for nine days doesn’t sound too promising, but when it is Stephen King that is writing the story, could he manage to successfully and convincingly delve inside the girl’s mind and make the story a compelling one?
The story begins when nine-year-old Trisha McFarland goes for a hike along the Appalachian Trail with her mother and brother. While her mother and brother are arguing, Trisha decides to go off the trail to take a pee and she gets lost. This is where the book immediately gets frightening. It’s every parent’s, and every child’s, worst nightmare.
Thankfully, in most real life cases, child and parent are reunited in a matter of just a few short minutes, but this is Stephen King, so Trisha doesn’t go running tearfully straight back to her mother, she spends nine fearful days in the woods alone.
During those nine days, Trisha faces a whole host of fears and dangers, including wasps, mosquitoes, and snakes and, of course, a lack of food and water. She also faces the fear of the unknown and the unseen, and she develops faith along the way too. The only comfort she has in the wilderness is her portable radio, on which she listens to baseball games and she begins to fantasise that Tom Gordon, her favourite Boston Red Sox pitcher, will come to save her.
Anyone who can remember taking a trip into the woods with their parents will relate to this book, because you must have, at least once, experienced that deep foreboding in the pit of a stomach when you turned around and found you couldn’t see your family any more. It can happen in a shopping mall too, or if you wandered off too far on a beach. If you don’t remember that happening to you; what were you doing when you were a kid!
What Stephen King attempts to do with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is say to the reader; what if those fears had come true? What would you have done? The problem is, though, that some readers have answered that question pretty much straight away; they don’t need nine days’ worth of narrative to explain it.
The story, to be totally honest, is more than just a little bit predictable, and the ending will come as no big surprise either. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a well written book and it’s a good read, but it is not up to the same standard of some of the classic Stephen King novels.
If you are looking for a shock, horror, slap in the face with a blood soaked rag by a monster straight out of one of your worst nightmares type of a Stephen King book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon might disappoint you. However, if you can cast your mind back to when you were a child and put yourself in the shoes of nine-year-old Trisha McFarland, you might just get The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon more than you want to.