Set during the Great Depression, Sarah Bird’s Last Dance on the Starlight Pier is a novel about one woman—and a nation—struggling to be reborn from the ashes.
July 3. 1932. Shivering and in shock, Evie Grace Devlin watches the Starlite Palace burn into the sea and wonders how she became a person who would cause a man to kill himself. She’d come to Galveston to escape a dark past in vaudeville and become a good person, a nurse. When that dream is cruelly thwarted, Evie is swept into the alien world of dance marathons. All that she has been denied—a family, a purpose, even love—waits for her there in the place she dreads most: the spotlight.
Last Dance on the Starlight Pier is a sweeping novel that brings to spectacular life the enthralling worlds of both dance marathons and the family-run empire of vice that was Galveston in the Thirties. Unforgettable characters tell a story that is still deeply resonant today as America learns what Evie learns, that there truly isn’t anything this country can’t do when we do it together. That indomitable spirit powers a story that is a testament to the deep well of resilience in us all that allows us to not only survive the hardest of hard times, but to find joy, friends, and even family, in them.
-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.
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“I’d learned long ago that it was dangerous to let the world know what you wanted most, since that was the thing it would always take from you.”
(3 / 5) Evie comes from an abusive mother and poverty. She is determined to become a nurse and make her own way in life. This is where her story truly begins.
While we get glimpses into her horrible childhood, Evie was a character that had enough grit and determination to make her way in the world, and to do it well. Nursing school was her dream and she found a way to make it happen. After school she heads back home and gets wrapped up in dance marathons. This is where the bulk of the book played. Dance marathons seemed to be taking over during the Depression for entertainment and fun. Many couples would enter and dance almost nonstop for days. This was definitely interesting at first but took over much of the story. It sadly wasn’t interesting enough to carry the story.
I found myself wanting more into the relationships, more into her nursing and more about the time period. The characters were interesting but I felt I just glimpsed their lives and didn’t fully understand them or their story. Zave was a character you couldn’t help but love. He had a heart that was big and all encompassing. However, I never fully felt he was connected to Evie as much as the story made them out to be. It never rang true for me and I had a hard time believing some aspects of it.
The story takes a turn and we learn about homophobia in the time period. There was very little known and “medical procedures “ were discussed and debated as a “cure.” As heartbreaking as that was, I recognize it was due to the time period.
All in all, I felt it was overly long, spending too much time on the marathons and not enough on life and the world going on around them. It was the days of Al Capone and the Depression but it barely touched on those subjects.
General content summary: Minimal language, opium and other drugs, addiction, a young girl models very provocatively to adult men, death claimed as suicide, a father beat his son for being gay, previous rape, death in a fire, suicide, self harm and suicide attempt, homophobia, medical “cures” for being homosexual.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the gifted copy!
The book releases April 12, 2022.
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