Posted in Blog Posts, Read Me

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King: a Novella Review

Synopsis:

Around a year after their parents’ divorce, nine-year-old Trisha and fourteen-year-old Pete are in the custody of their mother.  She tries to keep her kids entertained with family trips on the weekend.  But Pete is far from happy about the situation and this often ends in total blowups between himself and his mother.  Arguments that Trisha is getting annoyed hearing over and over again.

As they head out on one of their family trips, this time a hike on a six mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, the argument between Pete and his mother continue.  Trisha is beyond annoyed.  As she tries to get her mother’s attention so she can get everyone to stop so she can go to the bathroom neither her mother nor her brother hear her.  In a bout of childhood irritation, she decides to just step off the path to relieve herself.  How far ahead could they really get?

As she returns in the direction, she remembers the trail is in, Trisha soon realizes that she may be in serious trouble.  The path is no where to be seen.  As she tries to figure out where she should be going the day drags on and she has to resign herself to the fact that not only is she terribly lost but she may have to spend the night outside in the woods.

With only her Walkman for company Trisha is lost.  As she tries to make her way back to civilization, she turns to her favorite Red Sox player, Tom Gordon, for company and strength.  As the days wear on though she cannot shake the feeling she is being watched.  Will Trisha make it home?  Or will It get her deep in the heart of the New England wilds?

General Information:

-Genre: Psychological Horror, Survival

-Author: Stephen King

-Number of Pages: 224

-Where to Read: check at your local bookseller (they can often order items that are not in stock), find it on audiobook, or check out your local library for a copy

-Page of Reference in RPO: 62

Review (contains spoilers):

A quick read, especially when it comes to the works of Stephen King.  I wouldn’t consider it horror by any means though it is labeled as such.  I decided to also categorize it as a survival story as it seems to fit more with several of the novels I’ve read in the last year that are in that genre (surviving plane crashes or blizzards, being lost a sea, etc.)

The story follows that of a little girl who gets lost in the woods.  A seemingly common thing when someone steps off the path especially along the larger and more dangerous stretches of trails like that in the Pacific Northwest or, in this case, the Appalachian wilderness.  The most frustrating part is that it was all preventable if only her mother had paid more attention to her daughter while hiking an unfamiliar trail with a moderate to difficult rating.

The story seems a bit unbelievable for more modern times, as the young girl (aged 9) has a skill set that isn’t taught often anymore.  She knows some foods that are safe and scvangable in the New England wilds.  Some of this was taught in school and others were taught by her mother.  Now it seems that we would only learn these items if our children participated in something like Boy or Girl Scouts or showed a genuine interest in the great outdoors.  Most families today don’t even go hiking on the weekends, let alone teach general survival skills to their children.

Overall, the story is good.  One of a young child, lost in the woods and struggling to survive.  She makes choices, some good and some bad, that even adults often cannot when stuck in similar situations.  But she is a child and therefore some of the things she chooses to do seem more adult and mature that what a typical nine-year-old (even in the 1980s) would chose to do.

Or perhaps I’m just looking at things through a modern lens where we don’t have this knowledge.  Our schools are different.  Our parents work too hard and don’t often have the time to teach their children any of this information (or even know these things themselves).

Frankly the premise of a nine-year-old knowing a lot of this information is kind of out there.  It may have been more convincing if the girl and her brother were closer in age (say her brother being 16 instead of 14 and she herself being 14 instead of 9) where she and her brother may have been exposed to scouting, family camping trips, general exploration and even her own interests.  But for a young child whose only real obsession is that of the Red Sox this just feels contrived.

King does, however, capture the eerie and creepy feeling of a mind who is going slightly feral.  Between the starvation (as she doesn’t know a lot but enough to not die) and being sick, sunstroke and the general fear of being alone and lost, King does touch on how your mind can play tricks on you in this context.  And while I wouldn’t categorize this as horror, the idea that our brains can go into a survival mode turning what would be considered by the rational mind as normal such as animal activity and death, claw marks on trees from bears and general trouble in the woods into something completely sinister and slightly paranormal is disconcerting.

A decent story but nothing that I would commend King on.  If you enjoy survival stories you will enjoy this.

Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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