On several other occasions, I wrote that I enjoy books by Stephen King. For me, he is a master of storytelling. I know that if I pick up a book by him I will want to go back to it whenever I can until I finish. So when I chanced upon this title in one of the second-hand bookstores on AbeBooks, I bought it without a second thought.
Now a word of warning, if you haven’t heard about this book, there is a reason for it. It is not one of King’s masterpieces, but it is still very readable. I was surprised for the sheer fact of how much can you get out of a simple story of a child lost in the forest.
Trisha McFarland is nine years old. Her parents recently divorced and her brother is acting out by constantly arguing with her mother. Her mother obsessively plans active weekends for the kids to keep them occupied and educate them. That’s how they ended up on a forest trail on this fateful weekend. Trisha, tired of listening to the arguments, gets off the trail for a few minutes. Only when she decides to go back, she has no idea which direction she should turn.
She tries to follow what little she knows about being in the woods and finding the right direction. But things go awry, soon she is bruised, drenched and bitten by wasps. As if the whole forest turned against her. What is more, as the day turns to night she can feel she is not alone, something is watching her. Her only consolation is the walkman, offering a small connection to the outside world. She listens to baseball games, where her favorite Tom Gordon plays for the Red Sox.
As days pass the situation becomes graver and graver, with Trisha running out of food, getting poisoned with water from the stream, and finally starting to hallucinate. She takes the wrong turn after a wrong turn, going in the direction of Canada, through land that is uninhabited. All the while she is in dialog with herself and Tom Gordon. Trying to get her terror under control and make good use of her cognitive brain.
When you think of it, nothing much happens. The search is underway, but really our main interest is with Trisha, the external world as lost to her as she is to it. She walks, looks for food, despairs, rages, and tries to pick herself up again. As days pass she becomes more and more exhausted and numb, she doesn’t even have the energy to sustain her fear. And she knows full well the end is near.
I was really surprised that with such a simple story King could pull off an entire novel, that actually holds pace and tension pretty well. It really takes skill. With such simple premise it feels almost like a dare, will you be able to spin it into a longer story, when there is only so many things that can happen in the forest and only so many days a little girl can survive such ordeal. If it was a dare then I think this book is a victory. It pulls you in, makes you root for Trisha, but also shows the change that happens in her. So even if it isn’t up there with It it’s a good book to read.
One thing that always makes me happy is that there are still so many books by King I haven’t read. I still in a way avoid his classic horror ones, apart from It. Others I read include Joyland, Under the Dome, Mr. Mercedes (all before this blog existed), On Writing, and The Outsider.
What is your favorite book by King? Or maybe you really hate his style? Please share in comments