Three Stages of Amazement

A Novel

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A sweeping, richly compassionate novel about marriage, ambition, and the reclaiming of love—by the bestselling novelist and co-founder of Narrative magazine.

Many love stories end in marriage; rare is the love story that begins with one— already promised, already worn. Set in San Francisco during the first year of Obama’s presidency, Three Stages of Amazement deftly charts the struggles and triumphs of Lena Rusch and her husband Charlie Pepper, who still believe they can have it all—sex, love, marriage, children, career, brilliance. But life delivers surprises and tests—a stillborn child, an economic crash, a ruthless business rival, and the attentions of an old lover. Touched by tragedy and by ordinary hopes unmet, Lena and Charlie must face, for the first time in their lives, real limitation.

Fifteen years after her stunning debut, Rise the Euphrates, Carol Edgarian has created a panoramic and deeply moving story about business and family and the demands of love in our time. Three Stages of Amazement takes readers on a spellbinding journey inside America today, with an unforgettable cast of characters including Cal Rusch, Lena’s uncle, a Silicon Valley titan, and Ivy, his socialite wife, who engender complication in the lives of all the people they touch: their grown children, business partners, friends, the servants and workers upon whom their glamorous life depends—and Lena, whose quest for grace is the pulse of this gorgeous novel.

As Lena and Charlie, Ivy and Cal face the temptations of their youth and the fantasy of starting over, they discover that real life is the ultimate challenge. Told with eloquence, wit, and compassion, Three Stages of Amazement is a true thriller of the heart, a riveting story about confronting adversity, gaining wisdom, and finding great love.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439199206 | 
  • March 2011
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Carol Edgarian reveals The Three Stages of Amazement

Many love stories end in marriage; rare is the love story that begins with one- Carol Edgarian tells it already promised, already worn.

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Three Stages of Amazement One
The modern marriage has two states, plateau and precipice, and in the winter of our recent crisis—with markets plummeting and even rich folks crying poor; with the dark reign of one tinsel president finally ending, and the promised hope of a new man about to start; yes, with hope rising like a cockamamie kite and fear more common than love—Charlie Pepper forgot his wife.

He didn’t mean... see more

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Three Stages of Amazement includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Carol Edgarian. 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.



INTRODUCTION

Seventeen years after the publication of her acclaimed debut novel, Rise the Euphrates, Carol Edgarian returns to fiction with the bracingly intelligent and compassionate Three Stages of Amazement. Set in San Francisco as the Great Recession descends upon the country, Edgarian’s novel is a thoughtful and riveting look at modern marriage, with an unforgettable cast of characters. She describes the promises we struggle to keep, the secrets that everyone knows and lives with, and the thousands of small compromises we make to remain a family.

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION





1. Three Stages of Amazement is divided into the sections Silence, Disbelief, and Talk. Discuss what you think Edgarian means by these concepts. How do the characters deal with amazement (in all its forms) and how does that drive much of the plot of the book?

2. In an early scene between Charlie and Swanson, we come across this line: “They were, afte see more

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