The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999) – Stephen King

Alright, Mr. King. You got me again.

I didn’t realize how much stress and worry I was carrying around for little Trisha in this book until I reached the last page and shed my silent tears. Damn, this one reeled me in.

Steering away from his the horror storytelling he’s best known for, though over the last few decades, he’s shown he has all manner of engaging stories to tell, and not all of them are terrifying, King delivers a tale of survival, set around a nine-year-old girl, who loves the Boston Red Sox, and their closing pitcher, Tom Gordon, lost in the New England woods.

Trisha, her teenage brother Pete, and their recently divorced mother are on yet another weekend getaway, but Pete and mom are arguing again as they set out on the hiking trail, ignorant of Trisha who needs a quick loo break.

She slips off the trail for privacy but quickly becomes turned around and lost.

Trying to survive on her little knowledge, she sets off on a life-changing, sometimes terrifying journey to find her way back to civilization. But she’s not alone. She has her walkman, which allows her to listen to the Sox when they play. After some poor choices in water sources and food, she grows ill. She often finds herself accompanied by Tom Gordon, offering occasional advice and listening to her increasingly troubling wanderings.

But there’s more in the woods than just her and her imaginings. Something is stalking her, following her, hunting her.

The novel itself is broken into innings, following the format of the ballgame that Trisha loves so much, and sets the stage for what you know has to happen in the bottom of the ninth. It’s powerful, completely engaging, and shows once again why King is proclaimed a master. I was so swept up in this tale, completely tense as Trisha struggles to survive, but not willing to leave her alone in the woods without me.

King keeps everything evenly paced, and lets Trisha earn her moments, we earn them with her, and we suffer and struggle alongside her. She’s a strong young girl pushed beyond what anyone should be, and it makes for captivating reading.

King is a brilliant storyteller. Even as we closed on the end of the tale, and I knew what the thing in the woods had to be, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied unless Trisha confronted it. She earned it, and through her, so did we, and it pays off perfectly.

The final pages of the book were a wonderful emotional release, and while King has admittedly had trouble no the dismount with some of his novels, he sticks this one perfectly. Leaving it just right.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon may be one of my new King favourites.


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