In 1948, pedophile Frank La Salle abducted an 11 year-old girl name Florence Sally Horner. For 21 months, La Salle traveled with Horner from state to state, dodging the FBI and local police until he was finally apprehended and brought to justice. The story of Horner and her abductor captured the nation’s attention and inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. The title of T. Greenwood’s novel is a direct reference to one of the lines from Lolita: “And the rest is rust and stardust.”
Greenwood is a gifted writer and her prose flows smoothly off the page, but Rust & Stardust is a difficult read due to its abhorrent subject matter. The author does not shy away from the horrors that Horner experienced while held captive by a child molester. Reading about her physical, mental, and emotional abuse was absolutely heartwrenching and I had to take a break from the book multiple times to compose myself. It was also frustrating to learn of so many people coming close to the truth only to ignore what was directly in front of them; several of La Salle’s accomplices (both knowingly and unknowingly) helped harbor him from the law. Many people who came into contact with the girl suspected something amiss but did not confront La Salle or notify the police. The novel speaks to the worst of human nature and reminds me of the following quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Full disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of Rust & Stardust from St. Martin’s Press, and my review is based on an uncorrected proof.
How sad was it that grief had a shelf life, he thought. It’s only fresh and raw for so long before it begins to spoil. And soon enough, it would be replaced by a newer, brighter heartache – the old one discarded and eventually forgotten.Excerpt from Rust & Stardust