So, I took a break from reviews for all of 2018 – a lot was happening. I got pregnant, got a new job, moved to a new state, and then had a baby a whole month early. Everyone is happy and healthy, but it means some things take a pause. However, in 2019 I am back on the review train. I’ll be posting smaller version to GoodReads, and longer reviews here. Add me there if we aren’t friends!
First review of the year – the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I blasted through this December 1-3, 2018 as part of a @kingbuddyreads readalong. It is definitely in my top 10, maybe even my top 5, books by King.
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.
First, the language here is gorgeous. King dips more into the poetic than usual, which I think is easier to do when you’re talking about nature. There were so many vivid lines that made me feel like I was there which was thrilling, even if claustrophobic and terrifying at times.
Trisha is also well-rendered, and we don’t see King do vulnerable tween girls as often as we get younger boys. She’s so tough and doesn’t know it, which is probably why she survives the way that she does out in the woods. I also appreciated the moment when she was emotionally okay with being out and alone, and she was proud of herself for surviving at all. I think it’s good to see characters recognize that they are whole on their own, and Trisha has that moment in the woods.
Second, back to language – there is a rare efficiency of language in TGWLTG that we don’t get from our loquacious King very often. I think the book was almost geared toward a YA audience which might have led to the shorter novel, but there are times in other novels where you kind of wish King had a pickier editor because as much as I love his works they get a bit bloated. Probably because he is who he is and people will read it anyway, but the tightness of the writing and storytelling in fewer words in this book appealed to me. It was as if I got to see another side to this author who is so prolific you think you know what to expect. I was surprised here, and I loved that.
The enemy – and I say enemy, not necessarily villain – is also excellent. I understand enough at the end to get why things ended the way they did, but I am also left with questions that I can live with going unanswered. It’s a very primal story. Trisha’s fight to survive with no enemy would have been strong enough on it’s own, and I thought that’s where it was going for the first half of the story, but it was this extra piece that upped the tension. At the end, you’d understand if the enemy wins. Not because evil triumphs, but because it’s how nature works. The fight between Trisha and the thing that watches is ultimately fundamental. That was fun to read. I’m being vague on the enemy because spoilers would really spoil this book.
This was a 5 star read for me, obviously, and probably one of the more accessible books for non-King or vague-King fans. It was one I actually thought to myself – my father-in-law would like this. He’s generally not a horror person, there’s just something about it I think he’d appreciate. A definite recommended read.