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Three Stages of Amazement: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Carol Edgarian
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Kindle Price: $9.99
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Hardcover, Large Print $34.95  
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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Review: Ann Packer on Three Stages of Amazement

Ann Packer is the author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier, Mendocino and Other Stories, Songs Without Words, and Swim Back to Me.

I could start with a chain of adjectives--dazzling, gorgeous, thrilling, surprising, inventive, masterly--but maybe the best thing to say right off the bat is that I love this book. Carol Edgarian has written a novel of such intelligence and humanity, such humor and pathos, that everything else I've read lately pales in comparison, and I'm using that cliché advisedly, since this book is written in the most vibrant of colors.

At its heart is a marriage (and what a heart, and what a marriage)--between Lena Rusch and Charlie Pepper, who are easily the most vividly drawn wife and husband in recent fiction. These two are so alive on the page that you want to interrupt their conversations to remind them of important bits of their history, lest, in the passion of love or argument, they temporarily, and to their peril, lose sight of all that matters. Their test comes at the exact moment in our recent history when the economy hit bottom, and the stakes--for Lena and Charlie, for the country--are so high you have to set the book down every now and then just to catch your breath.

The other couple in this novel, the aging financial titan Cal and his socialite wife Ivy, are just as indelibly written and perhaps all the more marvelous for the way the author easily avoids the pitfalls of writing about the very rich and instead puts flesh (endangered) and blood (thinning) on the very human shapes of these people.

Three Stages of Amazement is one of those books you read in a great rush and then buy for all of your friends--a big, generous novel that reminds us why living inside a novel for a few days is still and always will be one of the great human experiences. Oh, and it contains absolutely the most poignant scene anywhere of a man climbing an oak tree in order to find a cell phone signal.

From Publishers Weekly

Edgarian's accomplished second novel (following Rise the Euphrates) looks at the way the privileged cope--or fail to cope--when the fates turn hard against them. Charlie Pepper gives up his surgical practice and moves his wife, Lena, and family to San Francisco to found Nimbus Surgical Devices, just in time for the 2008 market crash. While he scrambles to replace funding, Lena has her hands full with the household, a premature infant with multiple health issues, a young son, and her own family. They are already teetering on the edge when Charlie is offered funding from the one source Lena will object to: her uncle Cal, the man behind her father's failed business and, possibly, his death. Edgarian is in fine form, giving readers a well-told story with characters of great depth and complexity, but it is her crystalline writing and the unique narrative tone that elevates this the most. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4495 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00I7V4OE2
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,137 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Post-Madoff Cliches March 28, 2011
In the opening line of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy wrote these famous words, "Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". Unfortunately, Carol Edgarian in her highly touted new novel, Three Stages of Amazement, proves Tolstoy to be totally wrong. Why? Because Charlie and Lena Pepper, the family at the center of this novel, are so cliched as to be the same as many, many other unhappy families inhabiting the realms of contemporary literature. One need look no further then the novels of Dominick Dunne (sans his crime elements).

After having read a rave review of this novel in the august New York Times, I looked forward to reading it. After having read it I could only conclude that like in every other field of endeavor it's not what you know (or how well you write) that matters, but who you know that counts. There is no other way that I can account for the rave review of this cliche riddled novel. The Peppers are an only too familiar couple who having moved from the yuppy precincts of the New York Times, find themselves on the fringe of the upper class elite of Silicon Valley and Pacific Heights.

The novel opens in late 2008, soon after the ecomonic collapse known as the Great Recession, and the assumption of power by President Obama. Charlie is a top notch surgeon who is working on a robotic surgeon who could potentially perform surgery via software and computer, while being controlled by a human surgeon thousands of miles away. The potential for the sick in Third World countries is immense.
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100 of 127 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Almost unreadable March 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was shocked by this novel's poor writing, cardboard characters and lame plotting. To cite just one brief example, there's a scene where an ex-lover calls a woman at home, where she's busy with two small children. Over the phone, the caller "sighs like a surfeited king." Overcome, the woman falls to the floor.
Melodramatic? Tone-deaf? Yes, I'd say so. It also rambles, and is laden with cliches. The book desperately needed more editing, and didn't get it. Check it out in a store or library and see what I mean. Some purchases are bad enough to change your buying habits, and this is one of those for me. I won't buy any more hardcover fiction on the basis of reviews, without being able to read at least a few pages first. As for my copy, it's on its way to the used bookstore today. I can't recommend it to anyone.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book I've read in years, way overhyped April 20, 2011
By sfmom
While driving, I heard the author being interviewed on NPR about the book; I was so intrigued by the plot,characters, and Edgarian's articulate answers to the interview as well as being as SF native now living in Silicon Valley that I stopped at a bookstore on my way home to buy it. I very rarely buy hardcovers as I'm an avid reader and it's too expensive so generally stick to paperbacks or borrow from the libary. What an enormous and expensive disappointment.

It is so overwritten, cliche ridden and filled with dialogue that not only does not ring true in the slightest but is almost embarassing to read. I cannot believe that there are 24 reviewers who gave this book five stars, it's so poorly written and the plot line strains credibility in so many ways. Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steele are more poetic (granted, I haven't read any of their books since I was a teen and probably only read one at the most).

If you must read this for yourself, please borrow or buy used. It's a waste of trees. If you are interested in reading about modern marriage, try Jonathan Frantzen's Freedom. Phenomenally well written, here's a book full of hard to believe circumstances (i.e. truth is stranger than fiction) that ring completely true and is truly a wonderful and compelling read. And it's available at library.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovesreading March 15, 2011
If you're a reader who likes to lose yourself in a good story, if characters become friends you think about and care about, then read this new book by Carol Edgarian. The first chapter plunges you into the heart of the story: Lena and Charlie's year of disappointment, the love and hope in their marriage, the challenge of raising a family and following a dream, money--having it, wanting it, losing it. You want to know these characters, described in ways you remember:"Lena Rusch was extraordinarily ordinary: she worked and reared and hardly slept; she began each day prepared for a surprise." There's Charlie:"Women liked him because he listened. He hadn't thought about his soul in years. He was the kind of many you'd want married to your sister or bucking up your soldiers..." The language of the book moves and inspires:"Grief...It rose with the sun and hid in the corners of fog...It was brain freeze and sour lemons and a knife to the belly...Grief made Lena clumsy. She was forever falling, and attempting to rise." Edgarian puts a sharp eye to the social scene.Describing a party thrown by Lena's wealthy uncle, she writes: "Everyone had come. They'd stepped out of the gloom to embrace a new era. The old guard, the new guard, the hot, the rich the techies, the money, the talented, the stars..."Put aside your lists, your to-dos, that new movie--and read this book! You will be surprised, moved, and amazed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A tale of start-up hell in Silicon Valley
(2.5 stars) This book is set in the San Francisco bay area in 2008, just prior to the financial crisis. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Michelle Boytim
1.0 out of 5 stars Put it down.
So glad I read these reviews. I picked this book up on a whim and seeing the outstanding peer-author reviews, I was intrigued. Read more
Published 3 months ago by MCC
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and timely
It was like the girl version of The Financial Lives of Poets (Jess Walter). I well and truly loved it.
Published 22 months ago by Liz Burgess
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts strong -- devolves a bit
I grabbed a sample and liked the author's voice. I also wanted to find out what happened next so I bought the book and continued reading. Read more
Published on May 25, 2013 by frequentflyer
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book Sucked
After a few pages of this book, I wanted to pitch it across the room, and I should have. Writerly, yet absurd and pointless. Read more
Published on May 9, 2013 by Joan France Luzier
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant reality
Edgarian writes from the trenches of marital love with authenticity that makes the fictional life of her people inseparable from real living. Read more
Published on January 19, 2013 by Stephen Foehr
2.0 out of 5 stars SLO
At first, I liked it. Then, it started to sound like so many others I've read, or movies I've seen; boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Read more
Published on October 9, 2012 by ILUVCOOKIES
2.0 out of 5 stars Incoherent and Unrelatable
If you want to read all about marriage, this book is for you. If you're married and totally preoccupied with your marriage, read it. Read more
Published on September 11, 2012 by Thought_Juggler
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Novel
A trusted friend recommended this book and she was right. It was a great summer read and I finished it in two days. Now I'm reading "Rise the Euphrates" by the same author.
Published on August 15, 2012 by Jo Gorissen
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stages of disappointing
What's truly amazing about Carol Edgarian's novel, "Three Stages of Amazement," is that the book has generated such a slew of obsequious reviews. Read more
Published on August 14, 2012 by L. Taylor
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More About the Author

Carol Edgarian is an author, teacher, editor and publisher. Her novels include the recent New York Times bestseller Three Stages of Amazement and Rise the Euphrates, hailed by the Washington Post as "a book whose generosity of spirit, intelligence, humanity, and finally ambition are what literature ought to be and rarely is today." Her articles and essays have appeared in many national magazines, and she co-edited the popular collection drawn from great writers' diaries,The Writer's Life: Intimate Thoughts on Work, Love, Inspiration, and Fame.

In 2003, she co-founded the non-profit Narrative Magazine (, the leading digital magazine for storytelling--publishing more than three hundred artists each year. The Narrative archive contains thousands of stories, poems, essays and interviews enjoyed by readers and students of all ages around the world for free.

A graduate of Stanford University, Carol lives in California with her family. Follow Carol on twitter @caroledgarian, or at

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