Three Stages of Amazement

A Novel

Three Stages of Amazement

Read by: Anne Twomey
A sweeping, richly compassionate novel about marriage, ambition, and the reclaiming of love—by the bestselling novelist and cofounder 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, 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. She 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 the 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 the redo, they discover that real life is the ultimate challenge. Told with eloquence 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.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9781442344464 | 
  • 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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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.


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.


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

About the Author

Carol Edgarian
Photograph by David Matheson

Carol Edgarian

Carol Edgarian is author of the novels Three Stages of Amazement andthe best-selling Rise the Euphrates, winner of the ANC Freedom Award.  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. She is co-founder, editor and publisher ofthe non-profit magazine Narrative ( and Narrative in the Schools, a program to encourage reading and writing in schools across America.  She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Tom Jenks, and their three daughters.