After reading a review, I decided to give Astonish Me a try. I was not disappointed! This book takes you into the fascinating world of ballet and into the complicated life of a second string dancer. The chronological way of telling this story was, at first, awkward. But as the book progressed, it made a complex story more interesting. There are several ‘main’ characters, each with their own story to tell. Ms. Shipstead deftly weaves their stories together. While the world of dance is foremost, you don’t have to be a lover of ballet to like this book. This is a story of love, family, marriage, careers and the struggles of life that many can relate to.
Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a young American dancer who helps a Soviet ballet star, the great Arslan Rusakov, defect in 1975. A flash of fame and a passionate love affair follow, but Joan knows that, onstage and off, she is destined to remain in the background. She will never possess Arslan, and she will never be a prima ballerina. She will rise no higher than the corps, one dancer among many.
After her relationship with Arslan sours, Joan plots to make a new life for herself. She quits ballet, marries a good man, and settles in California with him and their son, Harry. But as the years pass, Joan comes to understand that ballet isn’t finished with her yet, for there is no mistaking that Harry is a prodigy. Through Harry, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she’d left behind—back into dangerous secrets, and back, inevitably, to Arslan.
Maggie Shipstead is a novelist and short story writer. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Maggie’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, VQR, American Short Fiction, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. Her story “La Moretta” was a 2012 National Magazine Award finalist. Her debut novel, “Seating Arrangements,” was a national bestseller and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.
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