Had you ever been separated from family or familiarity as a child? Couldn’t locate your parents in a busy mall, or walked a few blocks in the wrong direction and lost your bearings? At a young age, this can be a very scary thought – you’re mostly dependant on the care of others. When that link is severed, even momentarily, panic soon sets in.
That’s the basic idea behind The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, where nine-year-old Trisha becomes separated from her mother and brother while on a hike in the wilderness. With each failed attempt at reasoning for the best course of action, she finds herself deeper and deeper into the woods, all alone.
That sense of loneliness slowly begins to dissipate, however, when she discovers she packed her portable radio and can tune in to baseball matches featuring her hero, Tom Gordon. As her mind starts to slip, she imagines him by her side, comforting her.
At the same time, a malevolent presence stalks her, feeding off her fear, waiting for the right time to show itself…
I loved this book exactly for what it was – a focused, self-contained popcorn novel. No external factors to complicate things, just the story beginning with a girl going on a hike. We get shown some of the family dynamic, but after the point of separation, it is just a story of a young girl fighting for survival in unfamiliar territory.
Trisha is a well-sculpted character, everything she does is believable for her age. The addition of imaginary dialogue between her and her hero also means the book doesn’t resort to strange self-narration, due to being the only character around.
It felt a bit like a departure from King’s norm, in that the main character stumbled onto the home of this malevolent spirit, not the other way around. It took a very passive role overall, unlike the majority of King’s antagonists. Arguably, the main antagonist wasn’t the spirit, but more the natural elements themselves.
Still, a great read and like the story itself, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon was disconnected from the larger Stephen King Multiverse – but in a comforting way.