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.
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper (March 22, 2016)
As I started this book, which opens with a countdown to a catastrophic double earthquake in San Francisco, I questioned the wisdom of my review choices. Not because the book didn't immediately draw me in, but because I am pretty terrified of earthquakes and wondered what possessed me to read a book about one. I didn't used to be so frightened by them until I was in one in Seattle, a few weeks before I moved to Hawaii. Although it was a 6.8 at one point, it was a deep quake and the damage overall was to property in certain areas with injuries but no deaths. I happened to be at work, in the Sodo area of Seattle and the building I was in was hit pretty hard, suffering damage and serving to freak most of us in the building out for a long time after. But, this post is about a book review, so I'll spare you the details and get back to it.
I started my reading with the growing feeling of dread that the author's words inspired, meeting the characters and wondering exactly when the quakes would hit and what would happen to the handful of characters introduced. The dread didn't go away as the earthquakes struck and the city began to crumble and burn, but Elizabeth Percer managed to craft a story that while still containing chilling details, is really more about love and relationships than the earthquakes that bring most of the characters together at the Masonic Center at Nob Hill, trapped, and hoping for a rescue that may not come in time. There is the once passionate and now lost love between Max and Vashti--separated for years when she marries another, the deep love that geologist Gene has for his partner Franklin--whose health is deteriorating from multiple sclerosis and whom Gene is desperately trying to get home to, the familial love of two young sisters, the love of good friends with a lot of tough years in between them, the puppy love of a teenage boy, and even the love of a beautiful city and the life it provides and then can take away in a few terrifying minutes.
Everyone has a story and as the title states--"all stories are love stories." This book creeps into your soul as you read it--quietly frightening at times, emitting sparks of humor and hope amid moments deserving of tears--from damp eyes to a few moments of ugly crying. Lovely and moving, All Stories Are Love Stories pulled me in and has lingered with me after the final pages.
Author Notes: 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.
Visit Elizabeth at her website, elizabethpercer.com, and follow her on Facebook.
Even with much of the time set during an earthquake and its aftermath, there are food mentions throughout the book--it's San Francisco after all, and Vashti is a baker who uses her baking talents and memories of her mother as a form of comfort. It ended up that it was Max's mention of his mother's fondness for chocolate ice cream sodas at Bi-Rite (saying, "I swear the woman is going to waste her pension on chocolate ice cream sodas") that spoke to me. For my book-inspired dish, I chose to make a chocolate ice cream soda, dairy-free and with homemade dark chocolate syrup, and made with honey to reduce the processed sugar.
You can adapt these sodas to your own tastes--use regular ice cream and change the flavor as you like. I prefer vanilla (I used So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream) but chocolate or coffee ice cream would be great as well. I used honey to sweeten my syrup and added espresso powder and vanilla to round things out but you can omit the coffee and use the sweetener of your choice.
Homemade Dark Chocolate Syrup
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 Tbsp espresso powder or coffee (optional)
10 Tbsp dark chocolate or cocoa powder
1 cup raw honey, agave, or maple syrup, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch sea salt
Place all ingredients into a blender jar and blend until smooth. Pour into a container and store, covered, in refrigerator. Syrup will firm up as it sits in fridge.
To make an ice cream soda:
Place 3 Tbsp of the dark chocolate syrup into a tall chilled/frosted glass. Add 2 Tbsp non-dairy creamer and mix gently but thoroughly. Fill glass about 2/3 full of soda water, stirring to mix in the syrup. Add 1 to 2 scoops of non-dairy ice cream to glass. Carefully add more soda to the top of glass and drizzle on more syrup to garnish if desired. Serve immediately with a tall spoon and straw. Enjoy!
Notes/Results:Ice cream sodas have never been something I crave, but this one is darn good. Dark and rich chocolate, not too sweet. It's also not as heavy or filling as a milkshake with the fizzy soda lightening things up. The syrup has good flavor and the coffee and vanilla mask the honey flavor and allow the chocolate to shine through. I would make this again.
I am linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "All Stories Are Love Stories" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.