“All Stories are Love Stories” by Elizabeth Percer is a beautifully woven story tied neatly with a bow. The novel takes place in San Francisco on, you guessed it, Valentine’s Day, after two devastating earthquakes ripped the city apart. The stories of four different people take the reader on a journey of regrets, high-stakes emotions and devastation.
We first meet Max and Vashti, a young couple reunited long after a tremulous breakup who meet again in an even more tremulous way – under the debris of the Nob Hill Masonic in San Francisco on Valentine’s Day, which also happens to be Max’s birthday. But, they’re each other’s “the one that got away.” Max is an events coordinator and Vashti is a baker. Despite the seemingly cheery nature of the jobs the two hold, they are both stricken with death and loss. As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that this loss initially tore the two apart, but now that they’re older and forced into conversation, they have the knowledge and emotional maturity to confront their lingering pain.
Along with Max and Vashti, we are also introduced to Gene and his partner Franklin. As Max and Vashti represent the new generation in San Francisco, Gene and Franklin represent the old school. They’ve been there since the ‘70s, confronting those who are uncomfortable with their identity and ready to fight for their rights. However, the two have grown older, and Franklin has Multiple sclerosis. The two aren’t with one another when the quake hits, and Gene realizes Franklin – his rock – is no longer by his side. I will give Percer some kudos, Gene is a Stanford geologist, how apropos as he knows exactly how hard, when and why earthquakes will hit because of his knowledge of seismic activity.
This book was a lovely read; Percer is both a poet and novelist by trade, so her interweaving of prose into her writing worked well. I’m truly a sucker for a feel-good book, and while there were dark and nail-biting moments, this book is much like a beach read – one where you’ll be mostly engaged but not overwhelmingly involved and forget everything around you.
The story presents a harsh reality most need to reckon with. Natural disasters can happen anywhere and to anyone, and we shouldn’t take our daily lives for granted.
The book itself was slow during the first 100 pages. Despite a different earthquake happening to the two couples, we don’t even get to these events until a fourth of the way through the book. Along with that background, some of the characters introduced aren’t fleshed out. Max, Vashti, Franklin and Gene are all well-developed, but the other characters weren’t impactful enough for me to care about them.
With all that being said, the novel is still well written and a good read, one I didn’t necessarily expect for a book I picked up from the used shelf at the Strand Bookstore. I’d recommend it to those who are ready for a heavy book with a happy ending but not one that will weigh on their heart for days.
Contact executive co-editor Amy Jablonski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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