The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

Sarah Weinman’s The Real Lolita is so entertainingly written, it is easy to overlook the fact that there is only very limited information available about the title character.

In the late 1940s, drifter Frank LaSalle convinced eleven year old Sally Horner of Camden, NJ, that he was an FBI agent and that she would be in major trouble if she didn’t accompany him on his cross-country travels. The young girl was sexually abused by the older man until she “aged out” of his depraved personal tastes. Unfortunately, she did not live very long after her rescue, so she never had a chance to tell her own story as an adult.

The author gamely tries to fill the resultant gap in facts related to the time Sally spent with LaSalle with conjecture, tangential information about other crimes, and a discussion of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, which may have drawn upon Sally’s story in its similar plot (even though Nabokov refused to admit it). But there is no disguising that there are a giant holes in the middle of the Weinman’s narrative. Despite its limitations, I enjoyed this attempt to recover the life of a lost girl. Recommended by Amy B.

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