Book Reviews

Book Review: Rust and Stardust

Rust and Stardust, by T. Greenwood

Publication: St. Martin’s Press (August 7, 2018)

RustAbout the book: 

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 is rumored to have 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.

*My Review*

Have you ever had something sitting and patiently waiting on your Kindle and then for some reason you decide that today is the day I will finally read that? Somehow, (probably because I wasn’t signed up for a blog tour or other promotional events) Rust and Stardust has been doing just that, sitting and waiting to be read – but today I finally dug in. What an idiot I have been by not reading this sooner! This tragic but beautifully written novel is fiction, yet is based on true events involving Frank LaSalle kidnapping Sally Horner in 1948, as well as, their years together while she was held captive. Told from multiple points of view, author T. Greenwood has created an engaging and addictive novel about how Frank came across Sally in the first place, as well as, the effects of the kidnapping had on Sally, her family, classmates, and many more characters that are introduced along the way. This heart-wrenching and often horrific story about Sally’s kidnapping and subsequent sexual abuse has also been assumed as some inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Greenwood quotes Nabokov in her novel, an aside from Humbert Humbert, which historians and critics have suggested is a clue regarding Sally inspiring his story, “Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank LaSalle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?”



I much prefer this fictional account by T. Greenwood, however, because rather than Sally’s story serving as inspiration for a novel of similar subject matter, it feels as though Greenwood has brought life to Sally and her story.

First, despite the difficult moments in this novel, in which there are many, I absolutely loved this one. Like, “there should be more than a 5-star rating” loved it. Greenwood’s writing blew me away with her ability to include so many different first-person points of view, yet still seeming to honestly capture what they may have truly felt. Moreover, her vivid imagery and description were amazing, specifically as she detailed Sally’s mother Ella and her downward spiral over the years that Sally was gone, and even after Sally returned. There were several moments where I felt I was in the room with this woman, in her rundown home, void of any family members that had been there previously. Her pain, guilt, and physical sorrow was not only evident but seemed to jump off of the pages into my heart and soul. 

I could go on an on for days about Rust and Stardust. At some point within this novel, Greenwood manages to touch on almost all of the possible human emotions that we can experience. However, despite the horror and loss within the novel, I loved how the ending beautifully brought the symbolism regarding the name of the novel, the cover, Sally’s on-going experiences, her death, and the thoughts and feelings of those left to mourn her full circle. Specifically, Ella has a memory regarding her late husband on the fourth of July that when combined with the narrative of Sally’s death, almost gives the reader a peaceful feeling in the end.

Whether you are a fan of historical and/or biographical fiction or not, Rust and Stardust is a must-read. Greenwood’s writing is reason enough to dig into this one, but all of the unusual and fascinating characters that Sally meets throughout her nightmarish journey make this a compelling novel that you will not soon forget. This is hands-down one of my top three reads of the year. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing this copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Purchase Rust and Stardust on Amazon US, Amazon CA, or Amazon UK.

Learn more about author T. Greenwood.


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