This was my first time reading this book. I know, I'm just as shocked as you are. So why hadn't I, our resident King fanboy, read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon? Well...
I was homeless when it was released. That period of my life was the first of three times I would live on the streets. In 1999, I had successfully alienated myself from my immediate family (my mother and sisters; Dad had moved back to California by this time) due to my abuse of drugs and alcohol, and had moved into an apartment with this heroin addict named Jill. Four months later, Jill got herself cleaned up and decided to kick me out. I was replaced by a guy I came to think of as Studhammer McSwingin'-Dick. In reality, his name was Kirk. Kirk was an addict, too, but his drug of choice was weightlifting. I would eventually come to write about Kirk. Some of you know the character of whom I speak.
All that is still no excuse for me having not read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I could have very well read it once I got my shit together, but I didn't. For the longest time, I thought it was an internet-exclusive novella, like Mile 81 and UR, and I was waiting for it to be released in a collection. It wasn't until last year (2014), that I realized the damn thing was actually a full-length (albeit short) novel. Am I mad it took me so long to get around to it? Not really.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is an okay little book written in the vein of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea; one of those human-versus-nature books that values life lessons over plot devices. But, in this case, Hemingway's novella is far superior. There's not a whole lot going on in King's book, and the majority of the problems I had with it have to do with the cast. The characters within are some of King's shallowest. Our MC Trisha is a one-note kiddo who's obsessed with real-life baseball player Tom Gordon, a relief pitcher for King's most favoritest bestest team in all the land, the Boston Red Sox. Her brother Pete is your typical whiny-ass teen who prefers Dad to Mom in the world of New Divorce. Mom and Dad are just there; I got no feel for their characters at all.
One of the plus sides of the book is something King refers to as Wasp-Priest. What a creepy thing that was. The first time Wasp-Priest is mentioned is some of the creepiest work King's done since Pet Sematary. "The God of the Lost" is a cool name, too, but the reveal at the end of the book was kinda shit. What Trisha ended up facing off with was rad and all, but the way King delivered the reveal was anti-climactic. I literally said, "Fucking really? Dude, you didn't even try." I think King was hoping to rely on the build up he'd created earlier in the book to carry over to the end. Unfortunately, it carried about as well as a sack with a hole in the bottom.
Overall, I give The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon a pretty "Meh" rating. It is, without a doubt, mediocre King material. There are far better King books, but there are far shittier ones, too. In fact, two of his shittiest novels are up next on my reread list. Back to back: Dreamcatcher followed by From a Buick 8. I might read Hearts in Atlantis and Nightmares and Dreamscapes in between. Haven't decided yet... Anyway, after From a Buick 8, it's another Decade with King post.
The novel takes place around TR-90, which is the location of of Mike Noonan's vacation home, Sara Laughs (Bag of Bones). This puts The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon inside the Dark Tower universe--guilty by association.
This is the last book King released before a van ran him down while he was out on his daily walk, almost killing him. King would write about the experience in On Writing and The Dark Tower. Other novels influenced by the accident are Dreamcatcher and Duma Key.
In summation: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a highly-readable, mostly actionless novel with cardboard characters and an ending lacking any luster whatsoever. You probably won't regret reading it, but, if you choose to skip it, you won't be missing anything special.
Final Judgment: Contains more walking than The Hobbit and the entire The Lord of the Rings saga combined.