Author: Stephan King
Publication Date: April 6, 1999
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn't her only adversary, though - something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods. - Summary from Goodreads
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a survival story. While there is a small bit of supernatural in this story, the true horror is in the reality of 9 year-old Trisha McFarland’s situation. This book pulls no punches and shows the gritty and gruesome details of surviving in the woods by yourself when you really don’t know what you are doing. There were plenty of points in the story where I was grossed out in ways that I never have been before, but it had nothing to do with the supernatural or monsters and had everything to do with the toll that the wilderness was taking on Trisha.
I had a really tough time getting into this book. The first half of the book is about Tricia learning the how to survive in the wilderness and it is just brutal. The only thing that made reading all of that worth it was when she was listening to the Red Sox play and her imagined conversations with her hero, Tom Gordon. These scenes provided a much needed break from the horrors of reality for both Trisha and me. Sometimes the narrator would break away from Tricia for a couple of paragraphs and give a glimpse of what her family was going through while she was missing which also added heart to the story.
You can really see Tricia’s development as she’s going through the woods and not just in terms of her use of swear words, although those develop as well. She’s learning how to survive and deal with her situation. She doesn’t always make the right choices, but her decisions are believable because of her age. Tricia’s young, she makes mistakes, she doesn’t know some things, but she is smart and remembers what her mother and teachers taught her about the woods and pulls from that knowledge to survive.
I’m conflicted because although this was a good book (it’s well done, good writing and characterization, etc.) I didn’t actually enjoy it, although the ending brought everything together really well. After reading this I am willing to give Stephan King another try, but I am also aware that it’s probable that his books are just not for me.
One thing that I did learn from this book is that I will never leave a hiking trail… or leave the house without bug spray… EVER!