Book Review: All The Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

“When I dance—when I dance, nothing else matters. Everything else disappears. There is only dancing.” That was it. Dancing took her to another world, a world Uncle Miles could not reach. A world where her lost family was a faint shadow, not an omnipresent, weeping wound. When Lily danced, she was not a misfit. She belonged.

Lily Decker was the sole survivor of a car crash that left her with nothing and forced upon her childhood an anguish that was more than any young girl should experience. Sent to live with her aunt who never figured out how to love her and her uncle who loved her in all the wrong ways, Lily’s torment continue well into her teenaged years, leaving scars both physical and emotional.

Lily created other injuries. She “fell” off of a curb and for good measure bravely struck her ankle three times with the heaviest rock she could find. She knocked her forehead against a doorknob. She burst her lower lip and gave herself a black eye on a rung of the playground ladder. Yet, it wasn’t until Aunt Tate taught Lily how to use a razor blade to scrape hard-water stains from windowpanes that Lily realized she could turn the blade on herself, at last finding blissful release.

Yearning for an escape from the sadness at the loss of her family and the terror at the footsteps approaching her bedroom door each night, Lily first turns to self-mutilation as a way to temper the pain. As she grows from girl to woman, she learns of the physical characteristics she possesses which draws boys and men to her like flies to honey. For the rest of her life she tries to harness that charisma and beauty, to channel her pain into her ability to perform. Her love for dance is what, above all else, allows her to transcend her circumstance and, with eyes on New York and professional dancing, she sets out first to Las Vegas, where she takes the chance to escape and to remake herself in the image of a strong, composed and alluring showgirl.

Ruby bevel-walked her way onto the stage and smiled. She’d done it. She’d made it. She knew she was jaw-dropping gorgeous, and—at long last—she was precisely where she belonged.

Experiencing for the first time complete control of her sexuality, Lily—now known as Ruby Wild—shines from the stage and entices the men she entertains after the shows knowing she is the gatekeeper to her heart and to her body.

The nearly anonymous sex was, she thought, about the best thing ever invented. It let her experiment freely. The man—whoever he was—would be gone in a few hours or days, so why not? It let her demand. It helped her drive out the demons Uncle Miles had bred inside her, to make them matter less and less as they were caught in the undertow of other experiences, other men.

When one man in particular  stands out above the rest, she takes a true leap of faith and shares with him her past, her troubles and her bruised and broken heart. Will she finally find contentment and the love she so desperately wants and deserves?

“There must be another way. A better way for you to let this pain fly out of you.” He leaned up on an elbow so that he could see into her face. “You have had no one you can give this pain to? To unburden your heart?” He pressed a hot palm over her breastbone. “Ruby?”

She shook her head no. “I haven’t,” she said, simply, clearly. “Never.”

“Then I am the one,” he said. “I am the one you will give the pain to.”

With care and finesse, Elizabeth J Church pens yet another successful story revolving around the experiences of women—the fragility and resilience of our spirit and the unmatched ability to rise like a phoenix of the ashes of loss, abuse and heartbreak. All The Beautiful Girls may be the fictional story of one women, but there is enough substance here that most will find some commonality between the struggles of Lily/Rudy and themselves.


A review copy of this title was provided by Random House


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