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Rust & Stardust

by T Greenwood

Rust & Stardust by T Greenwood X
Rust & Stardust by T Greenwood
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    Aug 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, T. Greenwood at last gives a voice to Sally herself.

Highly readable and tightly plotted, T. Greenwood's Rust and Stardust achieves the perfect balance between fact and fiction. The story is meticulously researched, yet it never lets its grip on the reader go, never falls so deeply into factual detail that it loses momentum.

In 1948, 11-year-old Sally Horner does something out of character – she tries to steal a notebook from her local Woolworth's in order to make friends. Unfortunately for her, it's not the law but a known child molester who takes note of her actions. Frank LaSalle quickly seizes on the opportunity to hoodwink Sally, telling her he is an FBI agent who must now take her into custody. What follows is Sally's tragic, 21-month ordeal as she is dragged from her home in Camden, New Jersey all the way to San Jose, California, the shreds of her innocence trailing behind.

Although this is a story of true darkness, Greenwood manages to unearth sparks of light to help Sally find her way. She makes friends with neighbors and teachers, gathers scraps of comfort in her love of reading and learning, and somehow keeps faith alive that she will make it back home. These fictional details transform Rust and Stardust from something heavy and discomfiting into a narrative of hope.

Greenwood's style is simple and straightforward. Her sentences are surprisingly powerful, given that they are so spare. Much like Sally's taciturn mother, Ella, the novel is full of unspoken feeling and brimming with love. Greenwood cares about these people about whom she writes and she wants you to care about them too. In fact, almost every person in Sally's life is given a voice. In just a few short pages, they tell their stories completely. You know them briefly, but you do know them. Yet Frank LaSalle, Sally's captor and torturer, is a large, looming silence. His own motives remain hidden in shadows, and the full depths of his evil are never fully revealed.

There is only one short-coming in this novel. Because each chapter is devoted to a different character, and each is so short, it can be difficult to switch focus with such rapidity. Just as you are reeling from the events in one person's life, you are quickly thrown into the turmoil with which another is burdened. It is disorienting and often takes away the chance to linger on a feeling.

Melancholy, yet strangely luminous, Rust and Stardust is a beautiful feat. T. Greenwood does Sally Horner's story justice and brings her to life as never before. No longer is she the shadow behind Nabokov's Lolita (see Beyond the Book), but instead a heartbreaking heroine in her own right.

Reviewed by Natalie Vaynberg

This review is from the Rust & Stardust. It first ran in the September 19, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita

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