Norma, Lindsay and I read Rust & Stardust with five of our Traveling Friends and this one left us feeling like we haven’t felt before after reading it. We felt so sad, upset and heartbroken, yet left so satisfied with the way T. Greenwood wrote this heartbreaking and beautiful story.
T. Greenwood captures the story of real life Sally Horner and pulls us into her tortured world after she is kidnapped and abused by Frank LaSalle. Greenwood highlights so much here with such great insight into Sally’s story and her family in telling this story but leaves out descriptive details for us to figure out on our own. If you are like me, you just don’t want your mind to go there. We felt so many emotions while reading this one and were so grateful to have our friends to be able to talk over our feelings with. We could feel Sally’s vulnerability and she crawled into our hearts and she consumed us. Greenwood gives some hope here that she has some happiness through the eccentric characters that care about Sally.
Greenwood not only shows us Sally’s story we come to see how this tragedy affected other people in Sally’s life. We all loved Al’s perseverance to bring Sally home and her sisters hope that she would. Both never giving up on Sally.
Some of us googled Sally and did a little research and knew how the story ended and some of us went into the story blind not knowing anything about her. It was interesting to see who preferred to know and who didn’t and to see everyone’s reaction to the ending. I would suggest if you like a little heads up maybe do some searching as a few sisters would have preferred that while a few others didn’t want any and were glad they didn’t till the end.
Even though we thought the horror of what Sally endured was handled well and a lot was left for us to figure out on our own we still want to mention that there could be some triggers here for some people so we recommend with caution.
This story made for a treasured reading group experience. Here is a look into our discussion.
I loved that we’re given so many different POVs. Sometimes that can get a bit choppy but it didn’t suffer that fate here at all. Every point of view was vital to the development of this story and I don’t think there was a single wasted page, sentence or even word here.
I finished this at like 2AM (which I’m normally not that type of reader) and just sat next to my sleeping husband quietly crying. Greenwood brought real beauty to a terrible story and I think that Sally’s memory was very much honored here. Christina
She wrote a beautiful story, sensitively told. Jan
She didn’t force anything upon us that we couldn’t have gathered with our own imaginations. She gave us so much but also just enough. The story speaks for itself, so she never had to dive into the realm of “blatant shock factor.” Rose
But as for Greenwood’s story–it was written beautifully. Wow. The stunning prose blew me away and turned every single sentence into something worthy of quoting. Kristin
I also appreciate the way this book shows how this tragedy leaves its mark on all involved. How it’s somehow everyone’s fault, and no one’s all at the same time. Kristin
How do you even write a review for a book that was so harrowing to read but yet so beautiful at the same time?
This book literally shattered me and had me feeling so distressed and left me feeling completely numb in the end. Sally Horner will be forever in my heart and never forgotten!
I am so glad though that I had the pleasure of reading Sally Horner’s horrific story even though it was absolutely heartbreaking, T. Greenwood handles the tough subject matter with such grace and care. She is an absolutely brilliant and phenomenal writer!
RUST & STARDUST by T. GREENWOOD is an extremely emotional, chilling, and heart-wrenching story that is fictional based on the real-life kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner.
GREENWOOD delivers an engaging, suspenseful, and extremely well-written read here that was definitely difficult to read but I was totally invested in Sally and her family and couldn’t put it down. I did have to distance myself a few times though because I knew this story was going to be gut-wrenching and get under my skin.
The story is told in multiple perspectives between Sally and her family as well as people that Sally came into contact with in those two horrific years of captivity. With so much despair there was still a really nice balance of love and hope that was given to us to hold close to our hearts hoping for a positive outcome for Sally.
I really love T. Greenwood’s writing style and can so relate to the way she writes and I think that makes for a very special and extremely talented author. Would highly recommend!
*Traveling Friends Read*
I absolutely fell in love with T. Greenwood’s novels after reading Where I Lost Her which is one of my all-time favourite books!
- Cover: Eye-catching, extremely fitting and an obscure representation to storyline.
- Title: Drew me in instantly & subtly ties into plot.
- Writing/Prose: Beautiful, meaningful, gentle
- Ending: Bittersweet, emotional
- Overall: An outstanding read! Would highly recommend to anyone but be prepared for an intense emotional journey.
Heart-wrenching and unforgettable.
This novel is based on the real-life story of eleven-year-old Sally Horner who, in 1948, was kidnapped and held captive for two years, physically and mentally assaulted by known convict Frank LaSalle.
This is not an easy story to read. I found myself holding my breathe several times as I read through the harrowing and traumatic situations young Sally endured. She was a bright and vibrant child who fell into the hands of a predator who stripped her of her innocence. While many scenes were extremely difficult to accept, they were presented with sensitivity and care in a sincerely respectful manner, leaving out unnecessary detail that would have made this unbearable for me to read.
Sally’s character was innocent, naïve and loveable. I felt for her from the very first sentence. Her sister (Susan), brother-in-law (Al), Ruth and Sister Mary Katherine were stand out characters. The author, T. Greenwood, brilliantly captured their emotions, their struggles, their longing for answers, their hope. I was rooting for a reunion for this family. The writing was excellent. The story flowed effortlessly through multiple characters perspectives, each adding a new layer of emotion and intensity to the novel.
This was a Traveling Friends read. Due to the seriousness and heart-wrenching topic, it was wonderful to be able to experience this novel along with the Traveling Friends who held excellent discussion and provided support along the way.
It ain’t easy being queasy…
Despite (and maybe because of) the fact that I spent the entirety of this harrowing journey staggering on the brink of both vomit and tears, only to be pulled under into an abysmal sea of sadness, I cannot give this book anything less than the five shiny stars it deserves.
RUST & STARDUST is a fictional rendering of the real-life abduction of Sally Horner—an eleven year old child from New Jersey who was kidnapped by a manipulative monster of a man and held captive for two gruesome years.
Although the basic structure of this story is largely factual, this is not a biography and is widely embellished with friendships and daily occurrences. But the very real Sally lurks behind these pages, the truth of her story awoken and stretching gently around these words.
As one would expect, the content is beyond difficult to read and overflowing with potential emotional triggers, namely physical and mental abuse, so some readers should take caution.
However, this author shows the utmost respect for the tragedy endured by sparing readers any graphic detail and using a delicate hand to highlight even the darkest corners of this plot. It was a saving grace–one I normally don’t require, but in the case of a child I do not need, nor can I stomach, explicit details. The restraint was merciful and appreciated, and I don’t at all feel it weakened or underplayed the depths of what Sally went through.
This isn’t a story meant to be enjoyed, but one that has to be told and begs to be heard.
And what I heard most was this :
“We should do something…”
“We gotta do something…”
“God, somebody’s got to do something…”
“We need to do something about this…”
“Somebody’s gotta do something…”
“God, please do something…”
DO SOMETHING—words spoken repeatedly, and scattered throughout these pages by Sally’s family members, acquaintances, teachers, and even strangers, yet (with the exception of some) too many seemed to do nothing when it came down to it.
For me, this was an eyeopening example of how, despite our good intentions, many of us will turn a blind eye and continue on with our lives because it is not “our” tragedy, it’s theirs.
We separate ourselves from the pain of others so it doesn’t touch us, and then we tell ourselves it’s ok, but it is not. Especially when a child is involved.
But the flip side was also conveyed: people who go above and beyond to help. Quiet heroes who have no clue how their single selfless act will continue to inspire goodness in small but steady ripples.
We hear from various characters, each touched directly or indirectly by Sally’s tragedy, and we see how they’re also scarred with its permanent marks.
Sally’s pain effected me on a level I willed it not to reach and I didn’t want to let this story in. I wanted to remain detached, but I couldn’t.
Admittedly, there were moments I wanted to throw in the towel from the overwhelming sadness and from being so painfully disturbed, but the line between fiction and reality began to blur, and closing the book began to feel a lot like turning my back on a little girl who had already been through enough of that.
Despite her torment, Sally remained a warrior, and the least I could do was read her story. And as much as my heart broke, I’m so very glad I did.
Greenwood’s prose is graceful and eloquent, and just so achingly beautiful I could have cried from her unique arrangement of words alone. She masters the art of storytelling to an unfathomable degree, and here’s some solid proof:
“The world was a terrifying and dangerous place, a world that could convince you to offer up your own child to the devil without even thinking twice.”
“How sad it is that grief has a shelf life … It’s only fresh and raw for so long before it begins to spoil. And soon enough, it will be replaced by a newer, brighter heartache—the old one discarded and eventually forgotten.”
“She curled herself into a ball and imagined she was made not of bones but of sticks. Twigs. Gnarled and brittle limbs broken off from their roots. She and the tumbleweeds were no different, both at the whim of a terrible wind.”
“Poor Sally, this moonfaced girl with dull hair and pale eyes; so plump and earnest. So eager to please. What would become of this girl?”
Before this read, I had never heard of Sally Horner. And now I will never forget her.
- ▪ Genre/Category: Fiction
- ▪ Characters: Pained and unbearably broken
- ▪ Plot: A young girl abducted and abused struggles to find a way back home. Various trigger warnings
- ▪ Writing: Delicate, sparing readers of graphic detail. Beautiful prose
- ▪ POV: 3rd Person Perspective: multiple characters
- ▪ Cliffhanger: None. Standalone
Where do I even begin to review a book as emotionally wrenching as this. I was left numb, speechless and just downright heavy-hearted when I reached the end. A true tragedy, and…innocence lost.
Sally is a young girl growing up with her mother Ella in Camden, New Jersey. All she wants is a good friend. More precisely, to be one of a group of girls she admired and watched become “Blood Sisters.”
At this point most readers, myself included, would probably fore-see something quite terrible heading Sally’s way. Oh yes! And the cruel joke of an initiation from the “Blood Sisters” sets off an avalanche of events that leaves poor Sally taken away from everyone she knows and loves and thrust into a world of unimaginable terror.
This book is based on the true case of Sally Horner. As the author states in her acknowledgment at the end of the book, this is not a biography or a true crime novel. It is fiction-based on true events.
I devoured this in one day. It’s so hard to put down as you are completely absorbed into this emotional journey with Sally. Be prepared for the onslaught of emotions. Anger, sadness, love and heartbreak. You cannot read this book and come away untouched by its powerful realism.
There are a number of vivid events in this book that may be difficult for some readers, but the author handled it extremely well without going into any unnecessary details.
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for something to touch you and remind you of life’s true value.
Thank you so much from all of us to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and T. Greenwood for an ARC to read in exchange for a review.