"Three Stages of Amazement" is a chick novel about, what else?, marriage. And loss and pain and female friendship, a former Italian lover, a newly discovered paternal relationship, and a damaged child and...you get the idea. It is about a high-flying surgeon, his ambition, and its effect on his marriage and children, to sum up the plot as quickly as I can. What's curious is the name-dropping that occurs throughout. Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Francis Ford Coppola, Sean Penn and more make cameo appearances or are at least referred to as party guests. These mentions cause a certain frisson, but their only function is to point up just how rich and powerful the old guy with the bucks our surgeon needs to produce his revolutionary surgical invention really is.
The heart of the novel belongs to Lena, the long-suffering wife who copes with grief at the loss of one of her twin babies, the constant health crises of the one who survived, a young son with sensitivities, and a mother and sister who try to help but mostly annoy, while her successful husband pursues a bi-coastal medical career. Will he get the financing he needs before Lena walks out? Will Lena succumb to a former lover who has influence over that funding? Will baby Willa survive? Will Lena and her newly-discovered father (the rich guy who holds her husband's fate in his hands) make peace with each other before it is too late? I guess it would make a good movie.
"Stages" has gotten a lot of press and enthusiastic reviews, which is why I wanted to read it. Let me say that if I could write a book this good, I would. That is not to say it is a great novel, or even a particularly good one. It has a strong plot, recognizable characters, and an emotional kick, so it's not un-fun to read. Lots of women will probably like it, but I doubt it will win any prizes.
How's that for snark?