It's February 14 in San Francisco. Max Fleurent is thirty-four, not really celebrating his birthday that falls on Valentine's Day. He's busy that day with his job as events director for the Nob Hill Masonic Center and his avocation, conducting a children's choir. But, his mother's rambling phone call ends with a mention that she received a card from his father, the man who left them eighteen years earlier.
Gene Strauss is a senior lecturer at Stanford, a geologist fighting for tenure, competing against a co-worker as they share a study about earthquakes. He's trapped at work while he'd rather be at home sharing his good news with his partner, Franklin. But, when he can't reach Franklin on the phone, he worries about him. Franklin has MS, and his health is failing.
Meet Vashti Shirah, a night baker who left San Francisco, leaving behind the young man she loved, Max. Now, she's back in the city, regretting a promise she makes to her sister. She'll go see Max. And, she picks Max's birthday as the day to find him at work.
When two earthquakes hit San Francisco, these three people, along with thousands of others are caught in the aftermath in a city of rubble, on fire, with little water. It's a city in which the small group of firefighters and emergency workers can't immediately reach people in need. Gene, who studied earthquakes, "Was beginning to guess at a truth most of them would never have imaged; that there might not be any help coming."
Despite the tragedies in this story, this truly is a powerful story of connection, a story of people reaching for the ones they love, physically, mentally, emotionally. Percer writes of lost people, some finding strength and courage to face the truth. She's brilliant in her use of smaller stories in the midst of the big ones. She relieves the focus on Max, Vashti and Gene by telling other stories that are related. There's the story of a small group who were at Max's choir rehearsal. A television reporter gets her big break covering the story of the earthquake, and wisely listens to her mentor. In the end, though, she brings the story back to a few people recovering, as the city recovers.
All Stories Are Love Stories is frightening in its predictions for San Francisco. But, as humans, we, and the author, look to it as a story of courage, a story of encouragement; that life goes on.
Elizabeth Percer's website is www.elizabethpercer.com
All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer. HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780062275950 (hardcover), 348p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received this book to participate in the TLC Book Tour.