Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin’s Press on August 7, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg: 4.25 (as of 2018-08-21)
cw: kidnapping, rape, CSA, abuse, suicide
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
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.
It’s a shame I read this one so soon after Eden, because the two handle similar subjects in such different ways and I think Rust & Stardust ended up killed by comparison. Whereas Eden handles mainly the aftermath of a kidnapping, including the lifelong implications of trauma, Rust & Stardust follows the kidnapping itself and examines how it impacts everyone in the main character’s social circles. Where Eden is entirely fictional, Rust & Stardust is loosely based on a true story, something I actually didn’t realize until the end.
The book had such a strong start that I was certain it would be a five-star read. I found Sally’s naivety irritating yet realistic and thought the compounding issues in her life (her mother’s chronic illness and the suicide of her step-father) brought an interesting complexity to things. I thought the story itself was compelling and was interested to see what would happen next. Unfortunately, this only lasted until somewhere around the 50% mark. What followed felt like a lot of monotony; I think I really became tired of the constant abuse. While it was interesting to see the relationships that Sally built as she and Frank traveled, I struggled to stay immersed and was waiting for the story to move on.
Gasoline, gasoline, gasoline.
I also found the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. Reading the author’s comments after and finding out that this was the ending to the real-life Sally’s story helped me understand that a little better, but I think things could have been fitted together in a more cohesive way. I guess that’s the problem with true stories, though — they don’t always make sense.
While this seems like a good read for lovers of true crime and/or historical fiction, it just didn’t strike a chord for me. I’m glad to see that others have liked it, though, and think that speaks to T. Greenwood’s strength as a writer. I also want to warn that it has a lot of triggering content in it, and that all of the items mentioned in the content warning are covered in pretty great detail on page.
Her arms were as long as her legs, and she used them to embrace the whole damn damaged world.