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Astonish Me

A Novel


for years joan has been trying to let go of the past.

Few in her drowsy California suburb know her thrilling history: as a young American ballerina in Paris, she fell into a doomed, passionate romance with Soviet dance superstar Arslan Rusakov. After playing a leading role in his celebrated defection, Joan bowed out of the spotlight for good, heartbroken by Arslan and humbled by her own modest career.

But when her son turns out to be a ballet prodigy, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she’d left behind—a world of dangerous secrets, of Arslan, and of longing for what will always be just out of reach.


“A bravura display of high-performance art, the only constant its quest for perfection.”—The Guardian

“Maggie Shipstead’s prose is so graceful and muscular, so dazzling, so sure-handed and fearless, that at times I had to remind myself to breathe. Astonish Me is a treasure of small surprises.” —Maria Semple

“A breathtaking work of art.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“The power of Astonish Me arises out of the pairing of a melodramatic storyline with scrupulously executed range of movement.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“Maggie Shipstead takes hold of the reader and doesn’t let go. Astonish Me is a haunting, powerful novel.”—Dani Shapiro

“Bold and thrilling . . . The way the characters come together in new and surprising pairings is one of the book’s many pleasures.”—The Boston Globe