Last Dance on Holladay Street

Last dance on Holladay Street
Knopf 2005

The year is 1878, and 13-year-old Eva has lost all the family she’s ever known. Eva feels like an orphan—but she’s not. Sadie Lewis, the woman who gave her up at birth, is alive and well in Denver. And Eva sets out to find her, carrying only an address on a slip of paper.

But Denver holds more surprises than Eva can bear. When she reaches 518 Holladay Street, she discovers Sadie Lewis’s shocking secret—a secret that lands Eva in a house of ill repute, forced to dance with strangers for her keep. But Eva knows in her bones that she’s free—and that she’s got to escape. In a novel that pulses with the sights, sounds, and wild dangers of the frontier West, Elisa Carbone explores the many faces that family, and freedom, can take.

Description courtesy of Teachers at Random House.

ISBN 0-375-82896-6


Awards and Honors

New York Public Library Best book for the Teen Age, 200

Chicago Public Schools Mayor Daley Book Clubs Battle of the Books

*Starred review Kliatt


"A strong coming-of-age narrative . . . Eva's story of resilience, resourcefulness, and entrepreneurial spirit takes the American girl into a whole new territory."
--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Recommended Grades 7 - 10

"The author recreates both the town in 1878, and its male-dominated society, with vivid realism." --Kirkus Reviews  

"Last Dance On Holladay Street is a tremendously affecting read with a strong moral center, a story about doing what's right and finding resources within yourself. A tender, thoughtful story of perseverance and loyalty. Highly recommended. Ages 10-up."
--Cynthia Leitich Smith editor, Children's/YA Literature Resources
Read Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog about LAST DANCE ON HOLLADAY STREET

" . . . more than the perilous adventure, what drives the story is the authentic view of women in the old west. There's no detail about the sex in the brothel, just a strong sense of community among the desperate workers, and the triumph of a brave young woman who escapes to find real work and a home."
--Hazel Rochman, Booklist

"Carbone truly has a gift for historical fiction as previous works have shown and this one affirms." --Detroit Free Press

Author Notes

In November of 2000, I was in Arizona on a rock climbing trip at Cochise Stronghold. On a rainy day (when we couldn¹t climb) my climbing partner and I decided to drive into Tombstone, the nearest town. We stopped in to see the "Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral" exhibit, and my attention was drawn to a book about the fallen women of the old west. As I flipped through the pages of the book, I was riveted by a photograph of a young girl, "Jackie." The caption said that she began her career as a prostitute at "age 15" but the photograph is obviously of a much younger girl, probably twelve or thirteen years old. I couldn't take my eyes off her face‹so innocent and yet determined and somehow worldly. I wanted, desperately, to save her.

My mind began to race with questions: what pressures had caused Jackie to choose this profession? With the right help, could she have made a different choice? How was she like the young girls of today who, at younger and younger ages, are feeling pressured into becoming sexually active? I knew I had to write a story about Jackie, and give her a chance to choose a different path. That was how, at least in my imagination, I would be able to reach back in time and save this young girl. At the same time, I hoped to create a parable for modern young readers that might offer them the strength and insight to choose their own different path. Jackie, of course, became Eva.

The pressures of economic survival that plagued the girls and women of the old west are akin to the social pressures and need for love and acceptance that young girls are faced with today. It is my hope that this story can act as a bridge from past to present, and as a springboard for discussion.

~~ Elisa Carbone, Author