In this thoughtful, mesmerizing tale with echoes of Station Eleven, the author of An Uncommon Education follows a group of survivors thrown together in the aftermath of two major earthquakes that strike San Francisco within an hour of each other—an achingly beautiful and lyrical 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 man 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 to his ailing lover and their home.
All Stories Are Love Stories has some beautiful writing, but using the destruction of San Francisco to set the stage for an exploration of love, commitment, and abandonment might be a step too far.
The characters in this book have all suffered through childhoods characterized by loss, and all feel some sort of aching hole in their lives. Max and Vashti both yearn for what they’ve lost, despite building lives apart from one another. Gene and Franklin have a happy and loving relationship, but loss lurks around the corner, as Franklin has recently been diagnosed with MS and the resulting deterioration frightens Gene no end.
Much of the core of this novel is interior, as we live within the heads of the characters and witness their ruminations on how they’ve reached this particular moment in their lives.
And then disaster strikes. I was both horrified and fascinated by the depiction of the earthquakes and the utter destruction left in their wake, and yet we see so much of it strictly in terms of how it affects this particular group of people.
The comparison to Station Eleven in the synopsis is wishful thinking, in my opinion. Station Eleven was gorgeous and epic in scope, while maintaining the intimacy of personal experience. In All Stories Are Love Stories, we do get these intense personal stories, but somehow, it feels like the biggest stories are always happening off-screen.
The book does do a very good job of showing love in many different forms — between sisters, between lovers, between parent and child — and the risk one takes in loving. Is loving someone and sacrificing for them worthwhile, even when it ultimately must end in grief?
If anything, All Stories Are Love Stories seems to reinforce the sentiment: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” In the sense that this book can also be described as a love letter to San Francisco (a very over-used phrase, but it really applies here), the quote works as well. Despite its geological faults and its sociological flaws, there’s something unique and magical about San Francisco — enough so that people continue to rebuild the city every time it gets knocked down. For San Francisco, and for its people, it’s the loving that matters most, not the loss.
Title: All Stories Are Love Stories
Author: Elizabeth Percer
Publication date: March 22, 2016
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Adult fiction