Rust & Stardust
By: T. Greenwood
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 8/7/2018
My Rating: 5 Stars ++ TOP BOOKS OF 2018 “Greenwood’s glowing dark ruby of a novel brilliantly transforms the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. Shatteringly original and eloquently written....So ferociously suspenseful, I found myself holding my breath.” ―Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You 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 while 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.
Bestselling author T. Greenwood (one of my favorite authors) returns following (2017) The Golden Hour —with her best yet (of course, I say this after reading each one) with RUST AND STARDUST —a beautifully written and compelling retelling of a haunting true-crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. Top Books of 2018!
A tragic story of the eleven-year-old Sally Horner. A brutal 1940’s kidnapping. From the heartbreak to the people Sally touched along the way —as this tragedy unfolds. T. Greenwood is the perfect author to pen this incredible story.
An innocent girl, from a poor family. Camden, NJ, 1948. A single mother, a seamstress with a debilitating arthritic disability, with little time or energy left over for Sally. The older sister is married, and Sally must take care of her mother. However, like most young girls, she wants to fit in with the popular girls at school. To be a part of their club.
To become a part of their group, the mean girls want her to steal something. This is not something Sally wants to do. However, she takes a composition notebook from Woolworths.
(I recall as a girl, my aunt took me to the local Woolworths and remembered men sitting at the soda counter. Of course, my aunt brought me along so she could flirt from the table across from the counter). I can envision this story playing out. Chilling.
There happened to be a man at the counter to witnesses the event and is ready to prey on this young innocent girl. Frank LaSalle, who goes by Mr. Warner— posing as an FBI agent. He is a convicted felon. He tricks her. A scheme. He is an adult, an authority figure (so she thinks), so she feels she has to follow his orders, or he will hurt her family. He warns her to tell no one and follow his instructions. She believes him.
Little does she know or her mother what this horrible man is capable of. He instructs her to tell her mother they are going on a trip (father of her friend). The mother allows her to go. With no idea, her little girl will be in the hands of a rapist and pedophile.
On the road from one town to another, Sally is held, hostage. He mentally and physically abuses her. However, along the way, Sally meets caring people. She hopes and prays someone will save her from this man and reunite her with her family. He locks her away, and she is unable to escape for two years traveling across the country.
Greenwood alternates between POV of Sally and her mother. Then there are more characters as the hunt continues. From a teacher, a woman at a trailer park, circus people, and later the girls. Finally by the time the family figures out Sally is in real danger, the harder it is to track them. Sally’s brother- in- law is diligent, as well as others who begin to discover what is really going on.
Rather than focusing on the horrors only, Greenwood zooms in what it was like for Sally. Her dreams, hopes, and fears. The steadfast love and perseverance that eventually brought her home.
Signature Greenwood style, the author creates her skillful magic turning something heartbreaking and sad into stardust as the story comes to life. Inspired by history an eloquently blending of characters and events —from compassion and heart.
As the author mentions in her notes, this is not a true-crime story in the traditional way. She took liberties with some fictional portions, and others mirrored history. While she drew heavily on Sally’s heartbreaking story, the novel is ultimately an imagined rendering of the years she spent on the road with her captor and the impact of her abduction— and those Sally encountered along the way— as well as those she left behind.
As a nana of an eleven-year-old granddaughter, I know all too well at this age, even today there is so much peer pressure with social media. They want to fit in and can be easily persuaded to do things without the forethought of the consequences. To realize this could happen today when someone tries to pass themselves off as an authority figure. We want to guard our children against the evils of our world.
Thank you, for writing this emotional, beautiful and heartbreaking story! The author has outdone herself. Both lyrical and haunting— Sally would be proud! Her voice speaks through each page—the bright and shining star. A fitting title.
As Greenwood references in her writing, author Sarah Wineman. Be sure an add to your book list, The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World,coming Sept 11, 2018.
Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving more in-depth in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.
Highly Recommend both books.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
“And the rest is rust and stardust.”– Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
More of my T Greenwood reviews (plus more not listed here):
"A chilling read that will change your perspective."
A beautifully written, unnerving tragedy woven from equal measures of hope and menace.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Heartrending....Readers who relish novels based on true events will be both riveted and disturbed by this retelling of one of America’s most famous abduction cases.”
―Library Journal (starred review)
“Riveting suspense....Grace touches this dark tale....Greenwood’s story will spellbind readers.” ―Publishers Weekly
"Unflinching but compassionate, Greenwood deftly unravels the devastating layers of malice and carelessness that tore Sally from her family, but also the love and perseverance that eventually brought her home.”
― Bryn Greenwood, author of the New York Times bestseller All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
“Greenwood’s glowing dark ruby of a novel brilliantly transforms the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. Shatteringly original and eloquently written, Rust and Stardust is a lot about how what we believe to be true can shape or ruin a life, and the bright lure of innocence pitted against the murk of evil. So ferociously suspenseful, I found myself holding my breath, and so gorgeous and so unsettling in all theroads it might have taken, I kept rereading pages.”
―Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World
"A riveting and thoughtful exploration of how the dark secrets of a terrible crime affect and hurt so many―and how light and hope persist in the face of such horrors. Greenwood writes with such compassion and feeling, and she is such a confident, skillful storyteller, that you'll stay up late to find out the fates of her memorable, beautiful characters."
―Edan Lepucki, New York Times bestselling author of California and Woman No. 17
"A harrowing, ripped-from-the-headlines story of lives altered in the blink of an eye, once again proving her eloquence and dexterity as an author.”
―Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl
"A lyrical and haunting meditation on family, love, and survival, this novel―and Sally Horner―stayed with me long after I turned the last page."
―Jillian Cantor, author of Margot
"Greenwood is unmatched in her innate ability to weave lush, poetic language into a riveting story that hooks the reader from page one."
―Amy Hatvany, author of Best Kept Secret, and It Happens All the Time
About the Author
T. GREENWOOD's novels have sold over 250,000 copies. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, Christopher Isherwood Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. Her novel Bodies of Water was a 2014 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist; Two Rivers and Grace were each named Best General Fiction Book at the San Diego Book Awards, and Where I Lost Her was a Globe and Mail bestseller in 2016.
Greenwood lives with her family in San Diego. Read More