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Literature / The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

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The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.

A 1999 novel by Stephen King.

Nine-year-old Trisha goes on a nature hike on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail with her mother and teenage brother. She demonstrates her lack of awareness that she is a character in a Stephen King novel as she ducks quickly off the path to take a bathroom break, takes what she thinks is a shortcut to catch up with her family and ends up, well, a little bit lost.

Let the horrors begin.

A film adaptation directed by George A. Romero was planned but is stuck in Development Hell. Also of note is an illustrated pop-up book version of the story released in 2004.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Trisha becomes the child version of one.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Trisha's father possibly drinks more than he should. A nightmare she has one night in the woods indicates her subconscious feelings about this.
  • All Myths Are True: Assuming that Trisha wasn't just hallucinating, she meets representatives of three conceptions of god: The God of Tom Gordon, who is powerful but aloof; the Subaudible, her father's Spinoza-esque mindless benevolent force; and the God of the Lost, the savage personification of bad luck and nature.
  • Bambification: Trisha is awed and moved when she comes up close and personal with a doe and her two fawns in a clearing. Justified in that she is nine years old and has not yet lost her sense of childlike wonder.
  • Badass Boast: Trisha, facing down a black bear (or what looks to be a black bear) on the last leg of her journey:
    Trisha: I've got ice-water in my veins, and I hope you freeze on the first bite! Come on, you busher — BATTER FUCKING UP!
  • Big Bad: The Wendigo/The God of the Lost
  • Bears Are Bad News: The final hurdle Trisha has to overcome before getting rescued, is a confrontation with a bear. She stands her ground and, in imitation of Tom Gordon, she throws her Walkman like a baseball, hitting the bear in the face, and startling it enough to make it back away. A hunter who has come upon the confrontation between girl and beast frightens the beast away and takes Trisha to safety.
  • Break the Cutie: Kind of the entire point, as Trisha is put through hell and back by her ordeal.
  • Canon Welding: The Wendigo, the being which tainted the Pet Semetary in Ludlow, Maine and gave it the power to resurrect the dead returns here as The God of the Lost which terrorizes Trisha as she is lost in the woods.
  • Celebrity Crush: Trisha has a crush on Tom Gordon, though she doesn't admit it to anyone, and says that she only likes him because he's a good baseball player.
  • Cool, Clear Water: Subverted; Trisha drinks some Cool Clear Water when she runs out of her bottled water. It causes a severe bout of vomiting and diarrhea, although she luckily manages to get over it relatively quickly. Less fortunately, this appears to be because it weakened her system enough that she got a worse illness, and her body just gave up on purging the toxins.
  • Covered in Mud: During her first night in the woods, Trish is forced to cover herself from head to toe in mud to ease the itching of the many mosquito bites she received, and prevent any more mosquitoes from biting her.
  • Daddy's Girl: Trisha is particularly close to her dad.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Trisha would never have gotten into trouble had she stayed on the path.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Early into the narrative, Trisha has a dream in the woods of her and Tom Gordon in an old meadow beside the remaining picket of an old gate. Later she stumbles across that same meadow and is able to use the remains of the gate to trace an old road leading out of the woods.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Trish goes through many hardships, but ultimately is found and rescued.
  • Ear Worm: Trisha is annoyed at first by an auto repair jingle that regularly plays on the Red Sox broadcasts, but then gets to using it as a kind of Survival Mantra.
  • Expy: The God of the Lost is very similar to an idea explored in Pet Sematary, expressed as "Oz the gweat and tewwible". In Pet Sematary, Oz was the protagonist's conception of sudden, fatal disaster rather than a genuine character. The God of the Lost fills the same role, but has considerably more personality, hallucination or not.
  • Fangirl: Trisha is one to her favorite baseball player, Tom Gordon.
  • Fictional Fan, Real Celebrity: As the title suggests, Trisha has a Celeb Crush on Tom Gordon. She uses his moves as inspiration for outrunning the bear, and he allows her to keep the faith during long days and nights trapped in the woods.
  • Heroic BSoD: But she recovers. Kids are resilient that way.
  • Lack of Empathy: Trisha describes her best friend as someone who gets annoyed rather than sympathetic whenever Trisha cries.
  • Mature Work, Child Protagonists: The titular girl is a nine-year-old who gets lost in the woods and suffers a whole host of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane terrors.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Was there really a supernatural entity stalking Trisha in the form of wasps and the bear, or where these just ordinary animals and was it all her imagination?
  • Nature Is Not Nice: The only real enemy Trisha faces is the cruelty of nature. Or it could be an evil forest spirit.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Particularly after a very dehydrated Trisha gorges herself after she finally discovers a stream.
  • Not So Remote: Early in the narrative, Trisha just barely misses discovering a popular vacation lake, mistaking it for an impassable bog.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: The title.
  • Precision F-Strike: Early on Trisha's circumstances get so dire that she drops what she calls "the F word" for the first time in her life.
  • Red Herring: In-Universe example; one reason the cops don't find Trish is because they are put on the wrong track by an anonymous phone call that Trish was supposedly abducted by a pedophile named Francis Raymond Mazzerole.
  • Roguish Poacher: The hunter who finds Trisha is a heavy drinker who is trying to shoot a deer out of season because he would rather spend his limited money on things other than food. However, he does save a malnourished little girl from a dangerous predator and then take her back to civilization.
  • Sanity Slippage: Due to hunger and illness, Trisha starts losing her grip on reality after a while. She has vivid hallucinations and it becomes harder and harder for her to tell the differences between truth and imagination.
  • Sex with the Ex: Occurs between Trisha's parents when they seek comfort in one another while she's missing. It is mentioned that it came out of nowhere and was the last thing either of them expected to happen. The end of the novel implies that a reconciliation may be in the cards.
  • Stay on the Path: Trisha did not, unfortunately.
  • Swamps Are Evil: Making her way through one swamp leaves Trisha so traumatized that when she stumbles across another she can't face the prospect and turns back, not realizing that beyond the second swamp lies safety.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Trisha's initial reaction when she realizes just how dire her situation is. Justified in that she's nine years old, terrified and alone.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The creature that stalks Trisha, and eventually confronts her at the book's climax: is it just a black bear, distorted by her fear and her fever-induced hallucinations? Or is it really the supernatural horror, the "God of the Lost" she imagined it to be as it stalked her, and during her mental duel with it? Just to toy with you, the novel has someone else witness it who seems to provide the objective truth of it being a black bear... then it turns out he thought it was something else for a moment, too, and he's a drunk and no more reliable.
  • Wham Line: Spoken by a voice in Trisha's own head, of all things.
    Or maybe you won't just die. Maybe the thing out there will kill you and eat you.
  • Where da White Women At?: Inverted. Trisha, who is white, has a precocious crush on Tom Gordon.
  • Wicked Wasps: Trisha is stung all over by a swarm of wasps after upsetting their nest. Later, after gorging on checkerberries and their leaves, and some beechnuts, Trish has a dream (or maybe it's not a dream) in which she is visited by representatives of three conceptions of god: the God of Tom Gordon, the Subaudible, and the wicked God of the Lost. While the first two are benevolent and look like her science teacher and her father respectively, the third one is hostile and has the form of a human skeleton completely covered in wasps. Her earlier experience with wasps may explain why she imagined the evil god to look like wasps.
  • Wild Wilderness: The setting for the story.
  • The Worm That Walks: The priest of the God of the Lost is composed of innumerable wasps endlessly crawling over a yellowing, decayed human skeleton.