An achingly beautiful novel about the power of nature, the resilience of the human spirit, and the enduring strength of love
On Valentine’s Day, two major earthquakes strike San Francisco within the same hour, devastating the city and its primary entry points, sparking fires throughout, and leaving its residents without power, gas, or water.
Among the disparate survivors whose fates will become intertwined are Max, a man who began the day with birthday celebrations tinged with regret; Vashti, a young woman who has already buried three of the people she loved most . . . but cannot forget Max, the one who got away; and Gene, a Stanford geologist who knows far too much about the terrifying earthquakes that have damaged this beautiful city and irrevocably changed the course of their lives.
As day turns to night and fires burn across the city, Max and Vashti, trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, must confront each other and face the truth about their past, while Gene embarks on a frantic search through the realization of his worst nightmares to find his way back home to his ailing lover. And by morning, nothing will be the same.
Title: All Stories Are Love Stories
Author: Elizabeth Percer
Genre: Fiction | Literary | Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: March 22, 2016
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
FTC Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.
Much of what is said in the first paragraph of the synopsis above states most beautifully and succinctly the focus of Elizabeth Percer’s second novel, All Stories are Love Stories.
What that paragraph doesn’t share with you is the beauty in the writing and the cleverness Percer engages in writing this book. Percer has received many accolades for her earlier works. Having not read any other works by the author, I cannot speak to these statements. What I can tell you is reading All Stories Are Love Stories is an emotionally touching experience because of Percer’s multiple writing gifts.
Most of us know the history of San Francisco and its love-hate relationship with earthquakes and their aftermath, most famously the 1906 quake. Here is Percer’s first clever tool in bringing reality to the background for her story: Each chapter begins with a quotation about the 1906 earthquake. I found these quotations tied the earliest quake to the one happening in contemporary times.
All Stories occurs on Valentine’s Day, a day on which two earthquakes hit the city within an hour of each other. The citizenry soon finds itself roiling in fires, devoid of any power or water, and traffic so jammed first responders are unable to reach those in need.
Bring in Percer’s next bit of clever. Instead of only one protagonist, she uses three: Max, Vashti, and Gene. Each of them is connected to someone else endangered by the earthquake through love. As their desire to bring those relationships to a final closure of satisfaction, we see the real story behind All Stories.
Another stroke of clever is her plot device in using the earthquakes as her background story. It isn’t so much about the earthquake as it is about three characters. After all, any number of disasters could have supplied the backdrop to the story. Yet, each of these characters provides the real story–a story for each of what is most important, who is most important, and why. I appreciated the focus Percer kept on her characters and her commitment to sharing the heart of their stories while maintaining the disastrous conditions around them. A beautiful balancing act.
I’m not certain she chose San Francisco because of its love-hate relationship with earthquakes as much as she did its diversity, the range of lifestyles, and its worldviews. I found that to be an important underlying theme for her major thesis and the cover: a cover which denotes earthquake readings as well as those of a heart in all stages of love and life from fullness to nearing a flat line.
Never forget that we all have stories, and they are all love stories.
Elizabeth Percer is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley and a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Berkeley. She lives in California with her husband and three children. All Stories Are Love Stories is her second novel.
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