I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 7, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: the Publisher
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Camden, NJ, 1948. When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he's an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute - unless she does as he says.
This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally as the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.
Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, whose story shocked the nation and inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic Lolita, this heart-pounding story by award-winning author T. Greenwood at last gives a voice to Sally herself.
“She couldn’t ever tell anyone the things he had done and said to her. The secrets her skin kept now, the horror that flowed in her veins. Her marrow poisoned.”
Rust & Stardust is an affecting novelization of the true crime story that ultimately inspired Nabokov’s writing of Lolita. The facts: Sally Horner was kidnapped from Camden, New Jersey, in the summer of 1948, by a man claiming to be with the FBI after he caught her stealing a five-cent notebook. The man’s real name was Frank La Salle who had been released from state prison in January of the same year for sex crimes against young girls. The unknown: All of the tiny details that Greenwood had to infer in order to recreate the tragic story of Sally Horner.
The story melds the horrifying point of view of Sally Horner with that of the family she left behind and various individuals that were unwittingly impacted by La Salle’s crimes. Sally’s story is, of course, heinous especially when you consider this girl was a mere 11-years-old and the ease with which she was convinced that her minor crime was worth what she endured was heartbreaking. But it was the normalcy of life that her family was forced to revert back to that was the most heartbreaking for me. The efforts they were forced to exude, all because of the continuous passing of time with the vestiges of hope deteriorating with each passing day.
‘How sad it is that grief has a shelf life […]. It’s only fresh and raw for so long before it begins to spoil. And soon enough, it will be replaced by a newer, brighter heartache – the old one discarded and eventually forgotten.’
Within the first 100 pages you start to feel as if Sally had already endured a lifetime of suffering, but of course, the book was far from over. Her story, far from over. It’s hard to understand how an 11-year-old could be convinced the situation was credible, but then again, this happened in the year 1948 when crime wasn’t quite so common and it was normal for children to be mostly sheltered from the nightmares of the world. Also, we’re taught at a very early age to respect authority, especially police officers, so I can understand even if something seemed wrong, how would someone at that age really know? And of course, it wasn’t until months into her abduction as Sally grew up that she finally started asking the questions that you, as the reader, were no doubt screaming at her to question when this all began.
Rust & Stardust was, as expected, a most difficult read but Sally’s story was gracefully told. Do yourself a favor and don’t go searching for Sally’s story to find out what became of her; I made the mistake of doing just this and I wish I hadn’t so that the ending could have remained elusive.