Last Dance on the Starlight Pier by Sarah Bird

Published April 12, 2022-Reviewed for Historical Novels Review Magazine, May 1, 2022

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.

“Sarah is the author of 11 novels. Her latest, Last Dance on the Starlight Pier, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in April 2022. In addition to her novels, she has written screenplays for television and magazine articles for national magazines, including The New York Times MagazineTexas Monthly and the Chicago Tribune. Sarah and her husband, George Jones, live in Austin, Texas, with their son and, arguably, the cutest corgi in the world.”

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab-

The full review of The Last Dance on the Starlight Pier will be published in the Historical Novels Review Magazine on May 1.

“Welcome to Galveston. Playground of the Southwest,” greeted visitors to Galveston Island, Texas,1932. Sarah Bird shares the riveting story of Evie Grace Devlin’s life during the Great Depression and the world of dance marathons. Evie, having won a scholarship, is following her dream to be a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital. She meets student Sophie Amadeo of the infamous family who “owns” the island with their illegal booze and gambling racket and during three years of nursing school the two become “pinky promise” friends.”

Sarah Bird masterfully develops the characters in this first-person, gut-wrenching account as Evie hides her past as a child performer in Vaudeville to fulfill her lifelong dream. The horribly despicable actions of Evie’s mom, Mamie, and the Director of St. Mary’s are well scripted, offensive, and appalling. Devilishly delightful Sister T from the nursing school and later dance partners Cleo and Zave add to the suspense and relief like the fifteen-minute breaks in dance marathons.

Bird’s vivid account of Evie’s life after nursing school in 1932, leads readers on an exhausting whirl of dance marathons through West Texas, Chicago and back to Galveston’s iconic landmarks, the Hollywood Dinner Club, Buccaneer Hotel, Guido’s, and Starlight Palace. “Newsies” keep readers up to date with the Lindbergh kidnapping and the nomination of FDR in the upcoming election. Sensory observations of a bayou; the “oily rag/rotten egg smell of the refineries” and Bird’s use of shoes, black-and-white spectator wingtips, high-heeled Mary Janes, and white bucks; to symbolize the wealthy in the box seats, are examples of exquisite prose. Bird’s theme of “love that rescues a person” shines like a spotlight on the dance floor. So as the Vaudeville saying goes, ‘Absotively, possolutely’ read Last Dance on the Starlight Pier.

Galveston Landmarks from The Last Dance on the Starlight Pier:

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