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Three Stages of Amazement: A Novel by [Edgarian, Carol]
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3.4 out of 5 stars 100 customer reviews

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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: 4826 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1439198314
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (March 8, 2011)
  • Publication Date: March 8, 2011
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Young VINE VOICE on March 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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