Friday, August 31, 2018

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

5 stars

“Florence Flogg, what an odd little girl, and what an odd name, like something from a novel. Like an imaginary girl.”

In 1948 Camden, New Jersey, Sally Horner was eleven-years-old. She had hopes and desired to be friends with a group of girls. Her chance to belong comes with stealing a notebook, but when Frank LaSalle approaches her and pretends to be an FBI agent with the ability to lock her up and punish her for her crimes, Sally’s whole world is changed. After weeks go by, Sally can breathe a little but she still knows he’s there. When he shows up again he claims that she is needed for court in Atlantic City. He poses as a classmate’s father and convinces her mother to allow her to board a bus with him. The charade turns deadly for Sally and this harrowing novel provides a fictionalized account of the real-life inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. I didn’t know this was a true story until I read the acknowledgements. This changed my perception of the ending. I am a huge fan of Rust & Stardust. It’s depressing, hard-hitting, and it seems slightly out there. I mean what mother would willingly give her child to a convicted sex offender? But people were much more trusting in the 1940s and Ella Horner, Sally’s mom, was a single mother with rheumatism. Greenwood’s strength lies in her multiple POVs. We not only follow Sally, but mom, sister, brother-in-law, a nun, the girl she tried to impress, Ruth (the woman who saved her), and a circus performer. A lot of these characters are fictional and expanded upon from the real-life people. It’s important that in mind. I was drawn into Greenwood’s writing style and her presentation of Sally being manipulated and scared was overwhelming and captivating. I love lost history. I’ve never heard of Sally Horner before this and I feel like I missed out on this incredibly impactful kidnapping case that set to tone for many of the ruses that have become popular today that we warn young children about.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.5

“That winter of 1949, Sally felt herself slipping away, disappearing. Like her namesake, she was only Fogg, now. Only mist.”

Sally is a very endearing little girl. Like most children her age. Her biggest desire is to belong and be loved. She is just looking to fit in and in that she becomes one of the lost girls. The girls stolen from home. The girls who lose their innocence before they even realize it’s there. Greenwood does a fantastic job of painting a girl who was trusting and lead to believe lies. The saddest part about this story is the complete mistreatment of child rape at the hands of her abductor. She was branded as undesirable and basically seen as a “slut” by the general public. I kind of wish Greenwood had expanded upon the struggles Sally faced more with integrating and belonging in society after being subjected to utterly cruelty and no one accepting and loving her the way she needed because those resources were not available. This is this very much a character study. Now, I’m going to talk about what happened to Sally So, I was so angry when I read last couple chapters because I couldn’t understand why a writer would spend all this time towards bringing Sally home only for her to die at such a young age. I was going to lower my star rating because I was that mad. After reading the acknowledgements and doing some research, I learned that Sally Horner was a real victim of kidnapping, rape, and abuse and that she really did die in a car accident with a drunk boy she spent the weekend with at the age of fifteen. That really hit me. My appreciation for this story shifted and it became an absolute favorite. Sally died young and lived a tragic life, but I think this fictionalized does some justice to the hopes of a little girl who just wanted to belong and who was stolen in the process.

Kick-But Heroine Scale: 5

“Her life had been filled with thieves.”

There is a lot of characters in this story. Ella has the strongest presence and is very complex. Her narrative is sad and full of guilt. Susan and Al are really interesting pieces to this family. Seeing Vivi’s guilt over Sally was very raw and I admired Greenwood for trying to spin a fictional narrative about a girl who put Sally into the hands of a monster without meaning to. I really appreciate Sister Mary Katherine’s narrative because it offered an in depth look into the cover-ups of the Catholic Church and how it prevented Sally from being saved sooner. I also loved Ruth and the fictional take that was presented. She is probably my favorite character apart from Sally in this novel. Lena is a bearded woman who performers in the traveling circus that houses in the trailer park Sally winds up in and she was interesting, but I feel like she was also problematic. The traveling circus may have come into contact with Sally and “freakshows” were very famous at the time, but I just feel like her character was too fictional for this story.

Character Scale: 4.5

The Villain- I hate Frank LaSalle.

Villain Scale: 5

Overall, I definitely recommend Rust & Stardust if the story of Sally Horner interests you or if you like dark fiction. It’s a beautiful fictionalized account and I think many will enjoy it. I really appreciate the story and I’m so glad I read it.

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: I feel like when I look at this cover I know that innocence is being stolen and I think it’s conveyed really well through the simplistic coast and the rusty safety pin.

Thank you, Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read Rust & Stardust? Have you heard of Sally Horner before? What are some of your favorite lost history cases? Let me know down below in the comments! 

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