“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” by Stephen King
What’s it about? You can read the full synopsis here. Basically it’s about a 9 year old girl’s struggle to survive in the wilderness after becoming lost in the woods along the Maine-New Hampshire border. Her only tie to the world is her discman and ability to listen to Boston Red Sox games. She’s is a huge Red Sox fan and is wearing the jersey of her favorite player, Tom Gordon.
Why choose this book? This is a relatively short novel for King, so it provides a nice relief from some of his more mammoth novels. It’s also a great tale for readers that have never read Stephen King and are hesitant to do so because of his horror reputation. While The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon still has paranormal elements, they are malleable to interpretation and therefor this isn’t a typical “horror” novel that non-King readers expect from him. There’s also a pop-up version of the book can be great for younger readers. Adding diversity to the group (avid King fans versus non-King readers, multiple age groups) can make for a lively discussion.
What to discuss/questions: So much to consider in this book! I was able to find a few discussion questions here that we used in the group.
- How does this novel compare to earlier King novels? (This question can work especially well if you go from an older work, such as ‘Salem’s Lot, to this one) What changes in writing style did you notice? What do you think of these changes?
- What part does God/spirituality play in this novel?
- What symbolism exists in this novel? What is the importance of the number 3?
- How would this novel of a child lost in the woods compare to an adult lost in the woods? How would the story differ/remain the same?
- Is this story believable? (This can relate directly to Trisha’s actions as a 9 year old or other elements of the story)
- Pop culture is found in many of King’s novels. How was it used in this novel and did it have any significance?
- Why Tom Gordon? (There were quite a few stellar players that season. I printed out the roster and we looked over the list. While it’s beneficial to have at least a few baseball fans in the discussion, simply acknowledging that Tom Gordon isn’t exactly Nomar Garciaparra is enough to get the point across.)
- In this novel, Trish uses her love of baseball and her hero, Tom Gordon, to motivate herself to live. Why are sports important to people? (We also discussed if anyone in the group was a big sports fan and what it means to them.)
- What did you think about the repetition of the commercial?
- “I point because it’s God’s nature to come on in the bottom of the 9th.” What did Tom Gordon mean by this? What are your thoughts on this being God’s nature?
- Have you ever been lost? How did your experience compare to Trish’s?
Constant discussion questions:
- What was your favorite part?
- What were some of your favorite quotes?
- On a scale from 1-5, how did you rate this book? (This is always the opening question)
Make it fun! I always try to have a fun element that ties into the book at our discussion, whether it be food, imagery, or something totally outlandish. For this discussion we encouraged Red Sox fans to wear their paraphernalia. I had my sweatshirt and hat on. For food, we had Twinkies, as Trisha has this in her bagged lunch in the novel. I did not squish the Twinkies though. Little details like this add to the general feel of the event and makes each meeting a unique experience. And it’s just plain fun to see what you can bring out of the story and into real life. We also brought the pop up book for display.
We had 10 individuals in the discussion (including myself) with an overall book rating of 4 out of 5. We had a nice mix of diehard King fans and those that had never read more than 1 King novel previously. People seemed to enjoy the story and were appreciative of it’s length. Most felt that this book would be appropriate for a younger audience, especially the pop-up version.