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 ArslanReceived an ARC via Harper Collins
At first I was hesitant to read this second book by Maggie Shipstead, because I wasn't a big fan of her first book - Seating Arrangements. But I was pleasantly surprised how this book captured my attention right from the start. I have a feeling the main theme - ballet - was more interesting than a wedding weekend - which is the focus of her first book. Also I could relate a bit more to the characters in Astonish Me than Seating Arrangements.
The book does flash back in time as the present day story moves forward. As a reader, you don't learn about Arslan's journey until halfway through the book. Joan also is not the typical mother who might push her son towards the same experiences that she had as a child. She does strive to be the best mother she can for her son, even if that means memories from her past have to be revealed.
Maggie Shipstead weaves these characters together as she points out that sometimes your past is hard to leave behind in order to move forward.