The world of professional ballet is the centerpiece of this character-driven novel. To dance for a professional New York ballet company is no small feat, but for Joan her role as a member of the ballet corps does meet her aspirations. She becomes romantically involved with Arslan, a Soviet ballet star whom she helped defect to the U.S. Arslan takes the U.S. ballet scene by storm while Joan’s career declines. She leaves the ballet company, marries her best friend from high school, and has a son. Her son Harry becomes the ballet star which Joan had hoped to become, and it is through his success that Arslan reenters her life. Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me rekindled memories of Baryshnikov’s defection to the West in 1974, and his impact on American ballet.