Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: All Stories Are Love Stories for Elizabeth Percer

On the morning of February 14, exactly seven hours, fifty-two minutes, and thirteen seconds before the earth's two largest tectonic plates released decades' worth of strain under a busy suburb just outside San Francisco; exactly eight hours, eight minutes, and fifty-three seconds before the energy dislodged from the seismic shifting triggered an even more catastrophic displacement farther north along the San Andreas Fault; exactly eight hours, nine minutes, and twelve seconds before all gas, power, water, cell, and satellite communications were severed from San Francisco and its environs; exactly eight hours and twenty-two minutes before thousands of tiny sparks and larger ignitions got out from under the valiant efforts of a drought-plagued understaffed fire department and prematurely exhausted volunteers; and exactly ten hours and eleven minutes before the real danger to the old precariously built packed-like-sardines city--fire--proved its indomitable hunger, Max Fleurent was on the phone with his mother.  ~ Opening of All Stories Are Love Stories


All Stories Are Love Stories for Elizabeth Percer
Harper, 2016
Fiction; 368 pgs

I jokingly referred to this novel as a disaster book when first mentioning it to my husband. The novel takes place just before, during and after two catastrophic earthquakes in San Francisco, sparking fire and devastation. At the novel's center are three characters: Max, a twenty-nine year old who is going through the motions of living, let down by those he loved the most; Vashti, who has made a fresh start after the deaths of her daughter and husband, and who has never stopped loving Max; and Gene, a Stanford geologist who is afraid of losing the one person he loves most in the world.  All three of their lives will converge as they face their pasts, come to terms with their present, and do what they can to survive.

Let me start by saying I felt this novel got off to a slow start. Although the writing drew me in, it took me a while before I settled in. Perhaps it was the anticipation of what was to come. I was not expecting such a character driven novel. Somehow, though, this novel crept up on me, my initial distance from it eventually gave way to immersion before I even realized it.

All three of the main characters, Max, Vashti, and Gene have their own quirks and flaws. The disaster that befalls all three brings all of their worst fears, old guilt, and lost dreams to the forefront. The choices they have made in life are not necessarily the ones I would have made--but then, we walk in different shoes. Max's love and protectiveness of his mother shines through, and yet he is clearly scarred by his father's abandonment. Vashti's fears and commitment to her family led her to giving up love for practicality.  Under the circumstances, as a mother, I can understand why she took the path she did. I felt for both Max and Vashti--their story is a sad one, fraught with miscommunication, immaturity, and tragedy. For Gene's part, once passionate about his work, he has become more interested in the next promotion. His love for his partner is overshadowed by his worry about losing him and the life they have together. I admit I got frustrated at times with Gene in the aftermath of the earthquakes. No one would call him selfless. But is it really fair to judge him so harshly, I asked myself as I was reading? We are human after all.

There are other characters scattered throughout the novel from a homeless man on the street to a nun, Father, and three children trapped in the wreckage. Their stories are just as compelling. I would like to have known more about Phil, a boy, who has the spirit of a hero.

San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities. I remember well one of my many visits there, this one with my church confirmation class. We toured several churches and community programs throughout the city; It was a very eye-opening experience, cementing my decision to take the career path I did. I still remember how excited I was to see the beautiful Grace Cathedral, which is mentioned a couple times in the novel. Author Elizabeth Percer made me fall in love with the city all over again in her novel All Stories Are Love Stories. Such a beautiful city with so much history, so many faces, and one full of hope even when faced with the worst disaster. San Francisco is very much its own character in this novel. So strong and yet so fragile.

Percer writes in such a way as to make the reader feel the scenario described in her book is very possible, right down to the science, including the destruction of an entire city, or near to it. It's a frightening prospect, especially at the magnitude she describes. Having lived through two major earthquakes in California myself, seeing the devastation caused, I can only imagine how much worse it could be. We always hear about how the "Big One" is coming. I think most of us fluff it off--yes, we know, but it won't be today. We have time, we think. But do we really?

This is my first novel by Elizabeth Percer, but will not be my last. All Stories Are Love Stories struck the right chord with me. It's a novel not just about romantic love, but also the love between parents and their children, love between siblings, and the love between friends. I ended up really enjoying it.


To learn more about Elizabeth Percer and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on Goodreads and Facebook.


I hope you will check out what others had to say about All Stories Are Love Stories on the TLC Book Tours route!





Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

32 comments:

  1. I can forgive a slow start if the ending is great but I'm not all that patient with character driven stories so I'll have to think about this book.

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    1. Kathy - I know what you mean. Sometimes my patience is tested with slow starts, but I felt this one worked well.

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  2. I'm just finished Miller's Valley which also had a slow start, but I loved the writing and became so involved with the characters. I think I might be interested in All Stories. :)

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    1. Jenclair - I love it when that happens! I'm not sure I fell in love with any of the characters in this particular book, but I did become involved with them and really wanted them all to come out okay. I really enjoyed this one overall.

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  3. I don't mind a slow start if the characterisations are intriguing and the premise looks promising. Depending on the stories, sometimes I think a slow start builds a certain intensity and that in turn will lead the story to a more intense read. And this one sounds like a great story!

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    1. Melody - You really get to know the characters and their situations as the novel progresses. And I think you're right--sometimes that slow start does build intensity. It did in this case. Especially since I knew what was coming but the characters didn't. It doesn't always work in books, but for this one it did.

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  4. This sounds interesting! I will keep an eye out for it.

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    1. Rachel - I enjoyed it! It wasn't quite what I expected, but that often turns out to be a good thing for me. :-) If only it happened all the time . . .

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  5. Nice review -- I wasn't wild about her debut novel but this one sounds quite intriguing!

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    1. Audra - Thank you! I would like to check out her earlier work. Maybe it was good I started with this one if the first wasn't one you liked all that much.

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  6. This sounds good! It's definitely a scary concept and and probably a bit too close too home. I'm intrigued with seeing the aftermath of a disaster that we know is possible but for the most part completely ignore.

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    1. Katherine - Oh, yes! Especially given I live near a fault line. I can't even imagine being in the shoes of these characters in real life, and yet it very much could become a reality.

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  7. This is on my list of books to read this summer; glad to know it didn't disappoint.

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    1. Lark - I hope you enjoy it when you get to it! It's getting pretty good reviews, although not everyone is as pleased with it as I was.

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  8. I feel like I would read this book for the title alone, haha. But I'm glad to hear despite a slow start, it ended up being a really enjoyable book!

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  9. I like the title on this one. Stories about the aftermath of disaster and how people react can really be fascinating. It is really scary to think about the devastation earthquakes can cause.
    Great review as always! Happy weekend.

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    1. Naida - I really like the title too. It's fitting given the varying love stories that appear throughout too. It is scary to think of such a big earthquake striking. Scarier still that it's a real possiblity.

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  10. Your review is tempting me to read this book. (I find the thought of an earthquake-prone city frightening and have never visited San Francisco, although I'd love to do so.) I don't mind a slow start to a book if it builds into something memorable as this one promises to do.
    Miss Cellany.

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    1. Miss Cellany - San Francisco is such a beautiful city. I hope you will get to visit someday. I found this one to be worth the slow beginning. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it.

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  11. I've been meaning to try this one so I am happy to read you enjoyed it so much.

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    1. Diane - I will look forward to your thoughts on this one, Diane!

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  12. I'm sure that the characters in this story also thought "we have time, it won't happen today" ... it is a part of being human I think.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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    1. Heather - That's one of the things I ended up liking about this book--the earthquakes really did sneak up on them. Even Gene who was in a position to know what was coming.

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  13. I love San Fran too. This looks really good :)

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    1. Stacy - I enjoyed it! Such a beautiful city, isn't it? So full of character and charm.

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  14. This sounds really interesting! I've seen this one around but somehow assumed I wouldn't be interested in it - I'm not exactly sure why. It sounds pretty wonderful, and I really do enjoy getting to know the characters properly. Although earthquakes (and reading about them frighten me, even if I've never experienced one!
    Great review, Wendy!

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    1. Annika - It is a frightening prospect--a big earthquake hitting at any time. I really enjoyed this book--the look at these characters. The disaster although the push to get the characters to really re-evaluate their lives was secondary to doing just that. At least in part. If that makes any sense. :-)

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  15. Goodness, that paragraph definitely doesn't lead me to think this would be a character driven book about love! I think I need to read something that can combine that much action and still be character driven.

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    1. Lisa - It doesn't, does it? And did you see how long it is? I thought about shortening it, but I try to share the first line in its entirety.

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  16. Great review, Wendy! Another one for my TBR list.

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    1. Iliana - Thank you! I hope you like it if you read it!

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