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Rust & Stardust: A Novel Hardcover – 14 August 2018
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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.
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Library Journal Best of 2018!
San Diego Book Award 2019 winner for Best Published Mystery/Suspense!
Thoughtfully rendered. --Vanity Fair
Chilling...a perfect read. --Bustle
"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)
Fast-moving....T. Greenwood has clearly done her research. --New York Review of Books
"Riveting suspense....Grace touches this dark tale....Greenwood's story will spellbind readers." --Publishers Weekly
Enthralling...Wonderfully researched and written with stirring prose, Rust & Stardust is a gut-wrenching read. --Tulsa Book Review
Well-written and heartbreaking. --Watertown Daily Times
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 the roads 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
- Publisher : St Martin's Press (14 August 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250164192
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250164193
- Dimensions : 16.31 x 3.18 x 24.31 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 694,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The man tells her that he is an FBI agent, and because he likes her, he’s not going to hand her to the police. The man is Frank LaSalle, a 52-year-old man, fresh from prison. He convinces Sally do as he says. This involves a complicated story, which has Sally’s mother initially believing that Frank LaSalle is the father of a friend of Sally’s and is taking her on a holiday.
So begins almost two years of physical and mental abuse as Frank LaSalle takes Sally westward from Camden. Sworn to secrecy, fearing for her mother and her sister, Sally suffers in silence. Some of those she meets along the way are concerned for her, but they (and the police) seem to always be one step behind.
‘Don’t worry about your mama, Sally. They’ll forget about you soon. It’ll be like you never was.’
The real-life kidnapping of Sally Horner is one of the inspirations behind Vladimir Nabokov’s novel ‘Lolita’. Both ‘Lolita’ and this novel are fiction, but Sally Horner’s abduction is fact. In this novel Ms Greenwood draws Sally from the shadows and gives her a voice. Imagine being an eleven (and then twelve) year old girl in her situation. Imagine feeling unable to tell anyone what was happening, for fear of what might happen to you or to those you love?
‘Please let them find me, she thought. Before it’s too late.’
Ms Greenwood explores this period in Sally’s life from several different angles. Her mother, her sister, her brother-in-law and a couple of the people she meets along the way are each part of the story. Perhaps her mother was naïve and trusting, perhaps Sally should have tried harder to escape. It’s always easy to wonder why other people act the way they do (or do not). By presenting this story in the way she does, Ms Greenwood invites the reader to imagine being Sally, or one of the other people worried for her. But for Sally there is little comfort, no escape.
‘Why didn’t anyone try to save her?’
Those who know the story of Sally Horner know how it will end. Those who do not will, like me, be turning the pages hoping that Sally will be rescued. Some, like me, finding the suspense unbearable will do some research before the end of the novel. Whichever way you choose to approach Sally’s story, it’s uncomfortable.
I did not enjoy this novel in any conventional sense of the word. I was profoundly moved by it, reduced to tears at times, occasionally taking heart from the small pieces of humanity Sally benefitted from on her journey. How can it be that so many of us remember ‘Lolita’ but have never explored Sally Horner’s story? Ms Greenwood has written a powerful and moving novel, imagining aspects of Sally Horner’s journey. This is not an easy read, but I think it will prove unforgettable.
And the title ‘Rust and Stardust’?
‘My car is limping, Dolores Haze,
And the last long lap is the hardest,
And I shall be dumped where the weed decays,
And the rest is rust and stardust.’
― Vladimir Nabokov, ‘Lolita’
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
Top reviews from other countries
The most heart-wrenching scenes are the times Sally tries to enlist help from those with whom she is allowed limited contact. Her captor, Frank La Salle moves her from rooming house to dive to trailer park, from Maryland to Texas and finally California to evade detection. In every new location, she is forced to call La Salle her father and to learn a different backstory for every identity she is forced to adopt. Meanwhile, her physically disabled mother, older sister, and brother-in-law hold on to every shred of evidence proving that she is alive somewhere and will come back to them.
The story is fascinating but bleak. The chapters written from Sally's viewpoint, thankfully spare the readers the graphic details, but not the descriptions of the emotional toll of the predator's actions on Sally. On several occasions, Sally's torment could have ended had people who noticed signs of abuse acted early enough on their instincts. The rare bright spots were the tentative relationships Sally formed with a teacher/nun, a neighbor, a girl her age, and a dog.
Sally's story although gut-wrenching is a worthwhile read. The book lingers in your mind. If only to make people more sensitive and able to identify cries of help from the vulnerable it provides a valuable public service. I recommend this book to true crime fans and those who are responsible for children. This is not a book for those who are easily depressed