Early Tuesday morning I took my littlest babe to gymnastics class (where she did nothing close to gymnastics!) and then we headed down the street to my local bookstore to pick up Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. When we arrived the book wasn't even on the shelves but Barry, my favorite bookseller, went down to the basement to open a shipping box just for me. And so began my devouring of this novel.
Astonish Me was on my radar as I loved Shipstead's first novel, Seating Arrangements. But even with my expectations high, this novel blew me away. It tells the story of Joan, a ballerina who is living her childhood dream of dancing professionally, while at the same time knowing that she will never truly fulfill that dream, that no matter how hard she trains she'll never be a real star. When Joan helps a Soviet ballet star defect from Russia, she sets in a motion a chain of events that will effect generations to come.
As cliche as this sounds, Shipstead's writing is like a beautiful ballet. It's strong yet delicate, with a beautiful flow. This book kept me reading late into the night - one of those books that you fly through and then feel so sad when it's over. Aren't those the best?