Last Dance on the Starlight Pier – Sarah Bird

Evie Grace Devlin was only five when her father died and her mother put her to work as the breadwinner. He was a phenomenal dancer on the vaudeville circuit and her memories are warm and joyous, except for those in the hospital where the nurses set up a cot because Mamie didn’t visit. Mamie will forever say that Evie Grace’s father abandoned Mamie.. She promptly ramped up her little daughters vaudeville toe dance act, trashing her feet so Evie Grace could brought home the wages — until vaudeville died.. Eventually, they end up on Vinegar Hill in Houston, the poorest neighborhood, where Evie Grace works two jobs and earns her high school diploma. She has won a scholarship to a Catholic nursing school, in Galveston where she’ll be the only Protestant. There, she meets Sophie Amadeo, whose family turns out to be important in the community, but despite her stellar performance, a problem crops up and Evie Grace ends up back in Houston, stumbling upon a dance marathon group.

Up till now, between being poor already and having a full scholarship to nursing school, the depression hasn’t hit her personally — she had nowhere to go but up. Joining the marathon world, she finds people from all walks of life who are now down and out, whether they are in the stands or in the throes of exhaustion on the dance floor. The story is engrossing. I listened six hours straight to the audio one day. I enjoyed the narrator and the choices she made a lot. Characters, emotional connection, evocative settings. Last Dance on the Starlight Pier has it all! The themes include a lot about poverty, past childhood abuse that infects some adult characters, complicated loyalties, varying values and an interesting take on being LGBTQ in the thirties. There are gimmicks in the dances meant to draw in the public, silver showers where attendees throw coins from the stands onto their favorites, but all along, we know that a building that held Evie Grace’s last marathon burned to the ground and she has just come to wondering why the man she loved committed suicide. This is a memorable story, beautifully told.

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