|image courtesy |
A couple of weekends ago I had a (rare) lazy Saturday. I browsed through the home shelf and picked my copy of Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (I bought it at GoodWill earlier this year :-). I read this book in a single day.
I'm not telling anyone anything new when I say that Stephen King is amazing. And of course, we Mainers feel like he's "our" resident literary genius. I think the American reading public and even academia view Stephen King as culturally relevant & important. If he isn't already being studied as American Literature, he is sure to be in the years to come.
Not that any of that MATTERS. As anyone who has ever read any Stephen King can tell you, he just tells a DARNED GOOD STORY. And I think it's super fun when he cites real local places (Sanford, Wiscasset, the Saco River, Sugarloaf....) and these are all places that you know.
"The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old" (p.1). Trisha's parents are divorced, and her mother and middle-school-age brother argue constantly. While on a hike in the Western Maine woods (headed toward North Conway) Trisha strays off the trail and gets separated from mom & brother. Uh oh.
I grew up in rural southwestern Maine, and King is SPOT ON with his descriptions of the Maine woods in early June. The woods are THICK with mosquitos. Just imagine swarms and swarms of unrelenting mosquitos, no bug spray, no head net. Ugh. That's a horror story right there. And once you're off the path, it's very, very easy to get lost.
Trisha is strong and determined. She is resourceful and brave. She survives falls, getting wet, stung, she endures hunger, thirst... whatever the woods can dish out. But the almost mystical guardian-angelic presence of her very favorite Red Sox closing pitcher Tom Gordon is a wonderful way to tell a story of a girl alone, but not entirely alone, in the woods.
Weeks ago on our camping trip that involved the possible presence of bears, I couldn't help hearing Robert Frost's iconic line, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep," over and over again in my mind. Trisha hears it too. The woods are lovely, mysterious, and there are monsters lurking. Some are inside us, some are not. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a heck of a good read.
And next time you go walking in the woods, I doubt you'll forget your bug spray.