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May 15, 2012

Stardust: A Novel by Carla Stewart

Intriguing read of a woman overcoming all odds, in a charming setting.
Stardust: A Novel by Carla Stewart
Hachette Book Group: FaithWords, May 15 2012
Literature & Fiction, Inspirational
Paperback 320 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review rating: 4 Texas Stars!
Shortly after burying her unfaithful husband, Georgia Peyton unexpectedly inherits the derelict Stardust motel from a distant relative. Despite doubts from the community and the aunt who raised her, she is determined to breathe new life into it. But the guests who arrive aren't what Georgia expects: Her gin-loving mother-in-law; her dead husband's mistress; an attractive but down-on-his-luck drifter who's tired of the endless road; and an aging Vaudeville entertainer with a disturbing link to Georgia's past.

Can Georgia find the courage to forgive those who've betrayed her, the grace to shelter those who need her, and the moxy to face the future? And will her dream of a new life under the flickering neon of the STARDUST ever come true?
Faith, betrayal, loss, grief, humanity, death all play parts in this spunky novel set in early fifties East Texas. The neon sign from the motel/resort Stardust is a bit of a symbol for Georgia Peyton, as she comes full circle from once being abandoned at the Stardust as a child, and then being bequeathed the Stardust the same week she finds herself a widow with two young girls. Told in first person narrative, it is easy to become immersed in Georgia's story as her life is irrevocably changed when her cheating husband is found washed up in the bayou.

Embracing the chance of rebirth for herself and her little girls, Georgia throws herself full force into rebuilding the Stardust, much to the dismay of her Aunt Cora who had raised her. Unknown to Georgia, the Stardust holds the answers to all of Georgia's questions growing up. Before she can unravel the mystery of her own life, she comes face to face with her dead husband's mistress and her children, inserting themselves into Georgia's life she never thought imaginable. The fear of polio and the anxiety of becoming infected becomes center stage as Georgia has to defend her family and the Stardust from the physical and psychological stigma of polio.

Amidst the setting of the Stardust is the loving colored family who helps take care of the Stardust with Georgia; with Ludi becoming not only a maid but as much part of Georgia's family as ever, despite the color difference of their skin. Ludi and her children are a delight to read, along with several supporting characters in the town of Mahaw, Texas. Georgia is a strong woman that the reader roots for from the beginning, as we try to decipher the clues to Georgia's mysterious past along the way. Learning the answers to Georgia's ultimate question is an emotional journey that twinkles along with that Stardust sign, bringing redemption and renewal to Georgia and her family. Spirituality and faith is a subtle theme but does not glare out as a strong element in the book; those who look for Him will be rewarded with its nuances of faith and forgiveness.