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All the Beautiful Girls

All the Beautiful Girls

by Elizabeth J. Church
All the Beautiful Girls

All the Beautiful Girls

by Elizabeth J. Church


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"An exquisitely crafted novel of love discovered and friendship found."--Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls
Ruby's life glitters with success, but she still must conquer her tragic past and discover what love really looks like.

Lily Decker never meant to become a showgirl. As a young girl in small-town Kansas, she danced to forget the pain of losing her family in a car accident. And dancing made her feel beautiful when the attentions of her Uncle Miles only brought shame. In 1967, Lily is grown and ready to leave her past behind. She changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads to the Rat Pack's Las Vegas to make a name for herself as a troupe dancer. However, the competition is fierce and she finds work as a showgirl, instead, doing fan-kicks in sky-high headdresses and sparkling costumes. Her new life brims with glamour and excitement, but something is still missing. Is it love? What choices will she make to feel whole again, and at what cost?

With her uncanny understanding of the hidden lives of women, Elizabeth J. Church captures the iconic extravagance of an era and the bravery of a woman who blazes her own path to freedom.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399181061
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,133,825
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth J. Church is the author of The Atomic Weight of Love. All the Beautiful Girls is her second novel. Ms. Church lives in northern New Mexico.

Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from "All the Beautiful Girls"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Elizabeth J. Church.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Lily is resilient, a survivor. What aspects of her personality and life make her that, as opposed to a victim? Do you think some people choose—consciously or not—to become resilient, as opposed to victims?

2. Aunt Tate is a mixed bag—one moment she’s a strict, seemingly unfeeling disciplinarian, the next, she’s quietly leaving gifts for Lily. Have you ever known someone like Aunt Tate? What makes Aunt Tate tick?

3. Lily has no one she can trust enough to tell about Uncle Miles’s abuse. How have things changed for girls who suffer childhood abuse? How do things still need to change?

4. Why doesn’t Lily hate the Aviator? Why does she seem to forgive the Aviator right from the start?

5. What roles do books play in Lily/Ruby’s life? How do books help her find her way and provide her with support? Is there a book that helped you cope with a difficult period in your own life?

6. Shame plays a large part in this novel: Lily feels shame about her childhood and her choice of Javier, the Aviator feels shame about the car accident, and homosexual men of the time were taught to feel shame about their sexuality. How do the characters overcome or transform their shame? In what ways, does shame determine each character’s course in life?

7. Why does Aunt Tate choose Uncle Miles over Lily? Do you think if Lily had revealed her abuse to Aunt Tate earlier, there would have been a different outcome?

8. Lily’s dance recital piece is an effort to communicate her uncle’s abuse and her inability to escape. Ultimately, Lily/Ruby uses dance to free herself, to enjoy her body in a way that brings her joy, to give herself a voice, and to use a form of power—especially power over men. What other ways do you think dance proves vital to Lily/Ruby? What does dance do for, or give, any of us?

9. Ruby is required to “mix” with men but finds it challenging. Why is it so hard for her? What do her relationships with the men who travel through the casinos teach her? What do those relationships tell her about herself?

10. Ruby accumulates wealth but remains unsatisfied. Why do you think this is so for her, and for many others?

11. What role does Las Vegas play in the novel, in American culture in the sixties, and, most particularly, in Ruby’s growth as a young woman?

12. Ruby’s friendships with Vivid, Rose, and Dee sustain and challenge her. What is special about women’s friendships, and about the ways in which women support one another?

13. Javier is abusive, but he does not go so far as to blacken Ruby’s eyes or beat her senseless. Where is the line between abuse and poor treatment? How does a woman decide when to leave a relationship, and when to hang in there and keep trying?

14. Ruby has long been wanting to join in the protests or otherwise engage with the changes the youth culture is endeavoring to make. Why then does she fare so poorly when she meets with the UNLV protest group? What sets her apart?

15. After she returns from Vietnam, why doesn’t Ruby report Javier to the police and have him charged with theft?

16. Lily/Ruby struggles with what she feels is her flawed compass when it comes to determining whom she can trust and finding love. What has led to this state of uncertainty for her? Do you feel you have an accurate fix on trust, or on finding the right partner? What helps us to learn how to better make these important choices?

17. Would you want to travel back in time to classic Las Vegas? Why or why not?

18. Would you want to be a showgirl? Why or why not?

19. The Aviator and Jack must keep their love for each other a closely guarded secret. How has society changed since the sixties? How might things be regressing, and why? What societal fears limit the expression of love to male-female relationships?

20. Do you think that Lily will ever be able to find and sustain a healthy, loving relationship with a man? Why or why not?

21. How does Sloane’s existence change Lily’s perception of herself? How do the experiences of Lily’s childhood affect how Lily is and will be as a parent?

22. What actors would you cast if there were a film version of All the Beautiful Girls?

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