Maria is a book reviewer, editor, and proofreader, as well as a master of public health, master gardener, photographer, artist, and writer.
I was invited by St. Martin’s Press to read the advance readers’ copy (ARC) i.e., the uncorrected proof copy, of Last Dance on the Starlight Pier, by Sarah Bird, in exchange for an honest review. It’s due in bookstores everywhere April 12, 2022.
Bird takes the reader on a tour of the late 1920s and early ‘30s, as many are starving and dying from the dust bowl, as FDR runs against Hoover, as prohibition, under the Volstead Act, leads to the existence of organized crime, and as vaudeville becomes a dying art while movies and dance marathons take over.
Slow Start, but Soon a Page Turner
It took me a while to get into the story, but when it took off, it really took off. From that point on, I could not put it down. This book is not only an examination of traveling entertainers with the mob on the periphery, it also explores how women, gays, and “foreigners” were treated – not a lot better than today.
Main Character, Evie Devlin
Evie Devlin was born to a talented professional dancer, Dancing Denny Devlin, and a cruel, self-absorbed, abusive mother, Mamie – a movie-star-wannabe.
Evil Mom, Mamie
After Denny died, and Mamie was down on her luck, she forces nine-year-old Evie to perform at a burlesque show. Evie is scarred for many years, doubting herself, fearing to trust anyone, believing people could see “the real her”. It seems Mamie is abusive not only to Evie, but also to her own mother.
Ignoring Mamie’s threats, Evie applies for a scholarship to Roman Catholic nursing school, and gets it. Even with the judgmental director of the school constantly berating her, she graduates at the top of her class. Why does the holier-than-thou director do this? What does she know? Is Mamie somehow involved and making good on her threats?
Evie Saves Grandma
Soon after Evie returns to dancing, she sees her grandmother for the first time in years, and saves her from certain death and poverty. She is determined to save her good name and get a nursing job. Evie does wonderful, charitable, things, including working to expose the “doctors” who perform lobotomies to “cure” homosexuality.
No Spoiler Here
Why did Evie return to dancing after finishing nursing school at the top of her class? Good question. To answer it would be to provide a spoiler, so you’ll have to read the book.
My only experience with dance marathons was when John Boy danced in one on The Waltons. Who knew what all was involved in those marathons? Who knew the promoters hired professional dancers to compete among the locals who just wanted to win the monetary prize? That the “civilian” couples who entered the contest didn’t stand a chance?
A Complex Saga – Also a Must-Read
This story is a complex saga with multiple characters that come to life for the reader. I could almost feel the humidity in Galveston, and see the dancers at the Starlight and other locations.
If you care at all about exposing child abusers, fake and cruel medical treatments, homelessness, political and social history, you will love Last Dance on the Starlight Pier.
What made The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy?
The story is beautifully written and flows smoothly, even though there are flashbacks. Still, there were a few things I would recommend correcting:
Incorrect verb conjugations:
- would’ve, NOT would of;
- I’d have or I’d’ve, NOT I’d of;
- we’d have or we’d’ve, NOT we’d of.
Further vs. farther (further indicates more of something, while farther indicates distance whether literal or figurative).
A few missing commas – this can change the meaning of a sentence.
© 2021 Maria Logan Montgomery
Your Comments Are Always Welcome
Maria Logan Montgomery (author) from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 11, 2021:
Glad to be or service -- grin. Seriously, best of luck with your surgery. Prayers for all to go well. There are some great books out there. Thanks for reading my review, and for your comment.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 10, 2021:
I'm thrilled I recognized the name when it came up. lol Tiny steps for your new site. Thanks for the review. I will be having an operation in about a month, and will have lots of time to read, so this came in handy.