The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a Stephen King novel published in 1999. King novels can—generally speaking—be divided into two elemental types. Some feature large ensemble casts of characters that eschew any obviously singular perspective or point of view and tell a story intended to comment upon a broad range of social and psychological fears that fuel the conventions of the horror genre. Then there are the King novels that are slimmer both in actual volume of content but also specificity of fear. This second type of novel is more character driven and usually presents an identifiable perspective through which the mechanics of horror work through. King’s first big success—Carrie—is the prototype for this approach that is perhaps less ambitious in scope than his big books with lots of character, but may actually be far more artistically ambitious. The Shining, Delores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game are examples, but perhaps the most idiosyncratic of all from this category is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
The simple plot is the very essence of horror distilled from its fairy tale beginnings: a little girl gets lost in the woods. In an effort to keep herself from panicking, carries on a pretend conversation with her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon. Gordon actually a pitcher for King’s beloved Red Sox, but the character in the book is not intended to be a historically accurate representation. As the lack of water and food combine with the inability to fend off panic, she begins to hallucinate and imagines that Gordon is actually with her in the woods, presiding over her as a protective entity.
At less than 250 pages, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of King’s shortest novels and is almost entirely dependent upon the two title characters to drive its narrative and themes. The overarching theme is the need to commit to a plan for survival and stick to it. Trisha settles on the need to make Tom Gordon the key to surviving her ordeal and this decision not only serves her psychological needs as she deals with her fears, but climaxes with a surprising concrete action which likely becomes the ultimate difference between making back to her family and not making it back it all.
In 2004, the novel was adapted into a pop-up book. Although a film adaptation has been in development since it was first published, that endeavor has yet to work its way to screen.