The radio was her lifeline, the games her life preserver. Without them to look forward to, she thought she would simply give up. (p.174)Do you remember when you were a little kid, say around nine-years-old, and your dark bedroom was scary? With the covers up to just below your eyes, you'd listen to every creak or see the moonlight shift the shadows throughout the night and think that something was in there with you. Now imagine again that you're nine-years-old and you have this fear, but let's pretend you're not in your safe bedroom at home, but instead you're lost. Lost in the big, bad woods in northern New England that stretch for hundreds of miles and you cannot find your way out.
With one older brother, Peter, together they've moved with their mother into a new neighborhood after their parents recently divorced. Trisha and Peter only get to see their father every other weekend or so, and only then is when she can talk about baseball, and her love for her favorite baseball pitching closer, Tom Gordon. When they're not visiting their father, they attend their new school and visit a museum one weekend, the movies the next. Divorce is never easy, and their mother is trying to make things as much fun as possible to make the transition easier.
On a clear day, Trisha, Peter, and their mother go on a new venture and take a hike through the woods. With a few supplies and food for the day, they begin their trek. It's only when her mom and Peter are in yet another argument about the change in schools that Trisha decides to slip off the trail to use the bathroom. Without telling either of them where she's going, she steps off the path and makes her way further into the woods to find a private spot where no one can see her. When she tries to return to the path, she realizes she's turned around and doesn't know where to go. With a fateful step in the wrong direction, she gets immediately lost and begins a journey that will make her grow up much, much too soon. Carrying her meager supplies and a small Walkman that brings her the Red Sox games on AM stations, Trisha's coming-of-age tale with thoughts of her family, the divorce, baseball, and survival, is heart-breaking. I was absorbed in this story and cheered for Trisha, hoping that she would somehow make it out and be back home with her family. I was struck yet again by how Stephen King can just tell a story and make it feel so real.
And there's just something about the way Stephen King writes about kids that makes you feel like you're always choking back tears.
I loved everything about this story. While I missed how Stephen King brings the back story of minor characters into the mix of it all, I was completely okay with that because the overall story is so refreshingly different than what he's done before in the books I've read this year. The story of a nine-year-old relying on herself to survive, battling the elements and her own inner doubt, coming to terms with divorce and the change in seeing her father consistently because of it, her love of the Red Sox and particularly Tom Gordon, was all incredibly genuine and touching. When Trisha listens to the Red Sox games on the radio, my heart broke, and when she began to see visions of Tom Gordon accompanying her through the woods in his baseball uniform, it broke a little bit more.
This is one of Stephen King's books that seem to pit fans on one side of the fence or the other. A quick scan through the StephenKing.com fan forum reflects this polarization and a lot of it seems to come down to whether or not it's good because it does, or doesn't, include a strong supernatural element. Granted, there was just enough to cut your teeth on, but this was not a horror story at all; rather, it's a story of a little kid's survival through the woods of New England all on her own. With her limited knowledge of things that you can eat in the wild, she makes a lot of good choices and some bad ones. Some fans feel Trisha acted a lot older for her age, but I honestly didn't think so. I felt like it was a good representation of the body and mind willing itself to survive, fighting death no matter what, and I could completely believe that a nine-year-old who might be lost in the woods during the summer might be able to make it through, and I was hoping for it. It didn't seem like such high-falutin' nonsense to me. Her thoughts were "young-like," especially her own chatter to herself when she needed to hear a voice. Even if she was talking to the reassuring image of Tom Gordon in his Red Sox baseball uniform. It all fit just right.
If anyone read Lisey's Story, part of me thinks that maybe Trisha got lost in the land of Boo'ya Moon.
Final Thoughts? In comparison to Stephen King's chunkster books, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a quick read at 219 pages and is daggone good. It would be a good selection for those who want to try Stephen King but don't want to start out with his books that include supernatural elements.
Release Date: 1999
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is now also a pop-up children's book and was being discussed for a film adaptation, but looks like talks on it have stalled.
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower series, It, The Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.
The Stephen King Project. My education (and others') continues! The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is another selection for the challenge Kathleen and I are hosting. The site can be found (with other participants' reviews) here.