I read lots of Stephen King in middle and high school – it was all part of my King/Grisham/Crichton phase, which died out after about a year when I discovered Jane Austen. You know, as you do.
Recently, a suggestion on the internets brought me to The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I had no idea that this book even existed, and now I’ve read it twice. It’s that good. I read it again specifically so that I could review it here. People! Read this book!
Trisha McFarland is nine years old, and she is lost in the thick woods of Maine. The child of a recent divorce, her mother had planned the day trip (one of many, recently) as a way to occupy Trisha and Pete, Trisha’s older brother. While hiking with the two of them on a three-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail, Trisha falls back – mostly, she has to pee, but she was tired of their constant arguing.
Instead of backtracking, she decides to follow what seems to be a parallel trail, assuming that it will loop around and she’ll be able to rejoin her family.
It was the worst mistake of her life.
Trisha is soon too deep into the woods to realize she’s lost until it is much too late. She has a small lunch in her backpack, along with water, a bottle of pop (I suppose it would be soda to her, since she’s an East Coaster…), and a poncho. Most importantly, she has her Walkman, and she realizes that she can listen to the radio broadcasts of her beloved Boston Red Sox and their closing pitcher, Tom Gordon.
She makes poor decision after poor decision, but as she hears mention of her disappearance on the radio, she imagines the hundreds of people forming search parties. She guesses that she’ll be rescued in mere hours.
As the days and nights pass, Trisha looks deep inside for survival, and Tom appears to help guide her on her way. Together, she feels she can and will survive. But what happens if he disappears?
This book touches on so much more than survival and instinct. It’s about family and family dynamics, friendship, and hope. But mostly, it’s about the power of the will.
Of course, it wouldn’t seem like a Stephen King novel without a little supernatural freakiness, and it has that, too. Whether Trisha’s visions are real or hallucinations is for the reader to decide.