I have had a long love-hate relationship with Stephen King. He scared the crap out of me in high school with Cujo, Christine, Night Shift, and Salem’s Lot. I had nightmares and quit reading him for a very long time. Then, about 15 years ago, a friend of mine recommended a short story called “Head Down”, which is one of the best stories I’ve ever read about baseball. Stephen King wrote it about his son’s little league team. Then I read Eyes of the Dragon, which is just plain fantasy. A Stephen King twist on a fairy tale. Then he wrote 11/22/63 – and anyone who knows me knows that I would NEVER not (forgive the double negative) a book about the Kennedy Assassination, no matter who wrote it. After I finished that amazing book, Michael recommended The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. So I got it on my Nook and couldn’t put it down.
The story is about Trisha McFarland, a girl whose parents are getting divorced. She goes into the woods in Massachusetts with her mom and big brother. She veers off the path and gets lost. This is the summer of 1998. She is an avid Boston Red Sox fan and especially loves their relief pitcher, Tom Gordon. Trisha is not prepared for being lost in the woods. She has no coat and very little food and water. Trisha’s mom and brother, who were arguing at the time she got lost, don’t realize for quite a while that she’s lost. By the time they realize it, she is long separated and far away from them. The search team puts up a perimeter that is not big enough. And there’s a red herring about a known child molester. While the search team, Trisha’s mom, brother and dad struggle to find her, she is on her own harrowing journey through the woods.
Trisha doesn’t have compass and she doesn’t know that every decision she has made in which direction to go has been the wrong one. She drinks water that makes her sick and eats berries and nuts that, thanks to her mother’s knowledge of such things, Trisha knows she can eat.
Just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. Is she being stalked by a bear? Or something else? She is severely bug bitten and falls and gets hurt. She is wearing her Tom Gordon hat and she listens to her walkman only at night during Red Sox games, thinking that as long as she has that connection, she is going to be okay. She sees Tom Gordon telling her what to do and where to go. It starts to look very hopeless for Trisha. She’s either going to get attacked by something or she’ll die of dehydration and starvation.
I am going to stop there as I don’t want to give away the ending. I bugged Michael for the entirety of the book to tell me whether she lives. I couldn’t stand not knowing. But Mike didn’t tell me because he said it would ruin the experience. He was right, as much as I hate to admit it.
I really, really loved the book. It engaged me from the beginning. It made me cry and hope and cheer for Trisha. She is such a strong little girl. I hope that I could be half as strong as she was faced with what happened. I also read from the perspective of her mother. And while she isn’t talked about as much, I can only imagine her gut-wrenching guilt at having lost her child.
It has hints of supernatural and scary, but Stephen King relies on the reader to supply most of the fright in this book. It was just an amazing read and I highly recommend it.