Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

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This is the stuff of literature.

I was delighted to hear Ms. Shipstead on the Other Ppl podcast) Thankfully, major plots points were not revealed, so no spoilers. I loved hearing about her amazing opportunities as a writer, although I was also super jealous. But alas, I chose social work, not writing.

I turn 28 in just a few weeks, and I feel I need to date myself a little. My first experience with Mikhail Baryshnikov was season 6 of Sex and the City- not The Turning Point, and not his multiple television appearances with celebrities. A chance youtube binge-watching brought me to one of his dances with Liza Minelli, and I felt the weight of his seductive appeal to Americans (link here for video). Even this little dabbling of ballet history was enough to secure me to this story.

The book follows Joan Bintz, former ballerina, and mother of ballet prodigy, Harold (Harry) Bintz. We see Joan’s relationship with Arslan Rusakov (a Baryshnikov-inspired ballet dancer who defects from Russia), her marriage to researcher Jacob Bintz, and the girl-next-door, Chloe, who grew up with Harry and pursues her own dance career. By the end of the book, I couldn’t believe how much time had been covered, because I felt satisfied with the details given, and the amount of time that passed between chapters.

The result is lessons about determination- both in love and work. How far are we willing to let the past be the past? Is ambition always a good thing? Can you ever forget your first love?

This book took my breath away. It made me sit and digest for a few minutes, like eating really good pasta, and having both an overwhelming sensation of fullness in your stomach and a rush of carb-y serotonin to the brain. Highly recommended.

Further Reading:

Book Review from the Washington Post

The Baryshnikov Arts Center 

Open Adult Ballet Classes at the Joffrey

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