Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Release Day Review: Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: August 7th, 2018
Pages: 352

Genre: Fiction / Biographical Fiction / Historical Fiction


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 while 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.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I have to admit that I have not read Nabokov's Lolita and was not aware of Sally Horner and what she went through before reading Rust & Stardust. Now that I've read this story I know I will never forget Sally or her tragic experience. This novel is told with such tenderness and heartache, as well as a rawness that feels so real and all the more devastating because of it. It gives voice to a little girl who's life was unthinkably painful and yet hopeful.

The synopsis above gives you the basic outline of the story. What the synopsis doesn't tell you is just how sweet, open, and innocent Sally's voice is in the beginning. She's a lonely, poor girl who is desperate for friends as her home life is wanting after her sister has gotten married and moved out, leaving Sally alone with a mother crippled by her own arthritis and lacking of choices or resources. Sally tries to take a notebook as a sort of initiation into a group of rich girls who could never have known the devastation their joke on Sally would bring about. When she's taken by Frank LaSalle, a master at manipulation, she doesn't know how to get herself out of the situation that he's pushed her into. So goes the story and, as it unfolds, with so many people coming into contact with Sally and endless chances for someone, anyone, to do something to rescue her, her voice changes and she continues to lose her inward innocence and hope. I won't say too much more in case anyone doesn't know how Sally's story ends up, but I found it to be beyond sad and tragic, even when it seems hope might be about to surface for her at last. I so wanted everything to be different for Sally, but real life isn't built on only happy endings and the author kept to the facts as much as possible. 

The story is told through a multitude of perspectives, from Sally herself, her mother, her sister, a little girl she wanted desperately to be friends with, and a myriad of people who Sally met and touched as she and LaSalle moved across the country. If you are anything like me you will scream at some of these people who are so close to helping rescue Sally and will want to rescue her yourself, if only able to. I felt physically sick reading about LaSalle and thinking about the irrevocable harm he did to this poor girl!

I should warn readers that this can be graphic and hard to read at times. This story is, after all, about the kidnapping and abuse of a minor and those that are triggered by these sorts of situations should be forewarned. For those that are able to, I think it's important for readers to learn about Sally and what she experienced, not only so her voice is not forgotten but in the hopes that maybe her story can help others see warning signs and act to prevent other young girls from going through the same thing.

While I can't say I "enjoyed" reading Rust & Stardust I so appreciated getting to learn Sally's story. The author includes an excellent author's note at the end of the story that details the fact from the fiction, which I always appreciate. T. Greenwood should be commended for bringing Sally's voice to life as she did such an amazing job of giving a wide-ranging and all-encompassing view of what this sweet little girl went through. I know I'll never be quite the same. 

What Did I Think About the Cover?

This cover perfectly represents some important aspects of the story which  you won't discover until you read it. But, after finishing the book, I find this cover to be touching and poignant and bittersweet. I love it!

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I received an advanced ebook copy of Rust & Stardust in order to participate in the Book of the Month Reader's Committee selection process. All opinions are mine alone. To find more information about the book, including other reviews and where you can purchase a copy for yourself, see Goodreads HERE.

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