In 1934, 13-year-old Lucile “Lottie” Garrett has already been hoboing with her father, Dillard Garrett, in Oklahoma for two years. Their paths cross with Clint Palmer, a man with an easy smile who immediately covets Lottie. What Lottie’s father doesn’t know is that the 36-year-old Palmer is fresh out of the federal penitentiary, and that he’s a killer. When Dillard Garrett conveniently disappears, Palmer explains to Lottie that the police are after her dad, and that Dillard said Lottie should stay with Palmer and do what Palmer says until they can meet up again. What follows is a parent’s nightmare.
The fact that this is based on a true story adds to its chilling suspense. Greaves impressively brings alive Lottie’s year with Palmer; it felt as real to me as my own childhood. This is Lottie’s story, from start to finish. Greaves effectively intersperses court transcripts (fictitious—no real transcript survived) to show how the world in 1934 might see a girl like Lottie, “with [her] schoolgirl charms and [her] feminine wiles.” I was so worried about what happened to Lottie that I’d read less than 50 pages when I had to turn to the author’s note to find out what her fate would be. Even after I knew how it would end, Hard Twisted grabbed me and didn’t let go. It feels like a classic because of Greaves’s stylish writing, because of the story’s drama, and because of the powerful theme—how Lottie’s believable, determined innocence and faith kept her whole. Although Hard Twisted will never be shelved with inspirational books, it inspired me. It’s a real-life morality tale, no preaching needed. Recommended.