Ruby Jacinski had to drop out of high school and take a job at the local meat packing factory to support her family after her father passed away and her mom became sick. The one bright spot of her life is when she gets to dance the night away to swing music in Christine Fletcher’s novel, Ten Cents a Dance, set in Chicago in the early 1940s. Ruby hates her job and is excited when an exciting guy with a past she meets at a local dance tells her about an opportunity to get paid to dance. Ruby interviews and is given a job as a taxi dancer. In this club, men buy tickets worth ten cents and pay the different girls a ticket for each song they dance to together. Ruby becomes friends with one of the taxi dance girls, but must learn to negotiate through the mean girls that also work there. Her mother would have a fit if she knew what her job is, so Ruby also has to juggle work life and home life without her mother learning the truth. Meanwhile, the guy who told her about the job keeps coming around to see her. In the days leading up to WWII, it’s not easy for a young girl to support her family. Can Ruby handle it?
I really enjoyed this novel. I had never heard of taxi dancers before, so it was interesting to learn about a piece of history. Ruby spends some evenings at jazz clubs, and you watch her negotiate racism of the time. I also really liked Ruby and was rooting for her to find a way to be happy and live a stable life. The way Fletcher ends the book is good – it’s not a neat little wrap-up, but it fits the time period (as far as my small WWII knowledge goes) and gives the reader hope for Ruby’s future. Overall, the book felt realistic with its depiction of the messes you sometimes get in to in life without realizing you are making them.
The author has written a previous book, Tallulah Falls, which I haven’t read but would like to now. She also has a blog you might be interested in checking out.