The Unexpected Waltz

The Unexpected Waltz

From the author of the critically acclaimed debut Love in Mid Air comes this moving novel about a middle-aged widow who finds her feet by embracing a new hobby: ballroom dancing.

Kelly Wilder becomes recently widowed from a much older wealthy man with whom she spent her married life doing charity work, building a lovely home, and, as she says, “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupid and nicer than I really am.”

Now, with too much time and money on her hands, Kelly has absolutely no idea what happens next. So on a whim she signs up for a ballroom dancing class, and slowly, step by high-heeled step, begins to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new: Nik, a young Russian dance teacher who sees the artistic potential she left behind; Carolina, a woman in hospice, anxious to experience a whole lifetime in a few months; and Elyse, Kelly’s girlhood best friend who knows all of her past secrets—including the truth about the man who long ago broke Kelly’s heart.

In the vein of Jennifer Weiner's novels, Unexpected Waltz is a deeply felt story about moving on after loss and finding a new walk—or dance—of life through the power of second chances.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476754222 | 
  • June 2014

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Unexpected Waltz includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Kim Wright. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


At the age of fifty-two, Kelly Wilder Madison finds herself with a beautiful house in a gated community, a pretty face, and more money in her trust fund allowance than she can spend each month. From the outside looking in, she has it made. But when her late husband’s attorney assures her that “nothing has to change,” something inside of her awakens and sets in motion a quest for a way of life that can’t be bought or acquired through social connections. Unexpected Waltz is the story of her journey of transformation that begins with a single step—onto the dance floor.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In the first chapter of the book, Kelly Madison says, “I want things to change.” Precisely what is it about her life that she wants to change? What words would you use to describe her at the beginning of the story?

2. What are the similarities and differences between Kelly and her best friend Elyse? Kelly calls Elyse a “witness” see more

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About the Author

Kim Wright
Photograph by Alan Jenkins

Kim Wright

Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air and The Unexpected Waltz and has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty years for many magazines, including Wine Spectator, Self, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. She has twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing. The Canterbury Sisters is her third novel, and she also ballroom dances competitively. Kim lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.