Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

"If books were babies, I'd call The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon the result of an unplanned pregnancy." This is how Stephen King introduces the surprise release of his new short novel, due out on April 6th. At a mere 224 pages, it is a slight volume compared to such recent tomes as Bag of Bones and Desperation. Good things come in small packages, though.

Trisha McFarland, the eponymous girl, is only nine years old when she becomes separated from her mother and older brother while on a walk on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in New England. The separation is not accidental—she has become irritated with the constant bickering between her brother and mother. Trisha's brother has spent months resisting their mother's efforts to provide entertaining and educational activities for her children in the wake of a recent divorce. Trisha takes a short side-trek to get some relief.

The world has teeth, though, and it can bite you with them any time it wants, Trisha learns. Her short detour turns into a days-long ordeal as she becomes lost deeper in the unforgiving woods. Her only traveling companion is Tom Gordon, the real-world relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Trisha's favorite baseball player. She listens to games on her Walkman to help her through the frightening nights in the woods. At other times, she conjures up Tom Gordon for moral support. Gordon has a reputation for being able to come in late in the game to protect his team's lead. When successful, he points briefly to the sky to give credit to God for the save. Trisha's imaginary Tom Gordon tells her that he does this because it is the nature of God to come on in the bottom of the ninth.

Trisha is in desperate need of a save. She is physically and emotionally ill-equipped to spend days alone in the woods. She has little by way of provisions and knows of only a few things in the forest which are edible. Her orienteering skills consist of a mis-remembered aphorisms. And she is not alone in the woods. She is devoured by ferocious mosquitoes, stung by wasps. Worse still, something is shadowing her, something she comes to think of as the God of the Lost, and the time is coming when she is going to have to face it.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon explores the notion that lost people who survive seem to have access to a power greater than themselves. Trisha's ideas about God have been vague up to this point in her life, based mostly on a discussion with her father, who thinks of God as the 'subaudible', an insensate force of good in the universe. Most definitely not a God who marks the fall of every bird or who looks after every little lost girl. Trisha finds that this concept is insufficient for her in this situation and she is forced to synthesize her own notion of God.

Stephen King has a reputation for writing lengthy tales of horror and suspense, but his best successes often come in novella length, stories like "The Body" (filmed as Stand By Me) and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption", tales about triumphs of the human spirit. King's strength is in creating characters that the reader can identify with and care for, characters who are given the opportunity to grow or fade as they respond to adversity. This new novel fits comfortably into those ranks. It is a quick read, but a moving and gripping tale which makes the reader sympathize with every scratch and scrape, with every wasp and mosquito sting, with every setback which Trisha suffers.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.