Last Dance on the Starlight Pier – interesting story centered around Depression-era dance marathons.
It’s 1929 and Evie Grace Devlin hopes to leave her difficult childhood behind. She heads to Galveston, Texas with dreams of becoming a nurse and studying at the St. Mary’s Hospital School of Nursing. In 1932, after graduating at the head of her class, her past as a child vaudeville performer is discovered and Evie is denied her earned RN pin. This forces her to seek other means of making a living, which is very difficult given the country is in the thick of the Great Depression. Given her nursing experience, she manages to find employment in Chicago working for a promoter who puts on marathon dance competitions. She soon bonds with Zave, their lead attraction and the two become a dancing couple. The Handsome Hoofer and the Never-Naughty Nurse. The press loves them. Through friendships left behind in Galveston, Evie arranges for the group to stage a major dance event at the Starlight Palace on the historic Starlight Pier and hopes her new fame might help her gain the nursing certification kept from her. When a tragic event occurs, it could destroy all of Evie’s hopes and dreams.
Dance marathons were a huge form of entertainment during the Depression. With Americans in dire straits, these dances served as a cheap diversion for audiences. And for the dancers, the possibility of collecting the large prize money was worth the pain and agony. Author Sarah Bird does a fine job taking us back to this grim time period. Last Dance on the Starlight Pier made me think of the 1969 movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? which starred Jane Fonda, which was my introduction to this dance phenomenon. The book also addresses the influence of organized crime, the political climate with the upcoming Presidential election and archaic medical practices during this period of time. My heart ached for Evie as I rooted for her throughout this atmospheric book.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this engaging historical novel in advance of its publication. It is a sad reminder of how people suffered less than one hundred years ago.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 12, 2022.
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