“All There Is” by Dave Isay

Title: All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps
Author: Dave Isay
ISBN: 9781594203213
Pages: 176
Release date: February 2, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: ARC (hardcover)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The period of time between Christmas and Valentine’s Day is the worst. You can’t swing a cat without hitting some diamond ad. (Sorry, Kizmet.) It would appear that it’s not love if he didn’t go to Jared, and it won’t last forever if it wasn’t designed by Jane Seymour. Let’s not even talk about eHarmony.

Needless to say, in the weeks leading up to the holiday, the last thing I wanted to hear were corny stories about love. Luckily, Dave Isay’s volume of real-life love stories, All There Is, is the opposite of all that.

Dave Isay is the founder and president of StoryCorps. A little more about that:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.

In this collection of stories, men and women from all walks of life share their experiences with finding, losing, and recapturing love. Bobbi and Sandi, who committed to each other at age 19 and then again many years later when gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, allow their tenderness for each other to shine through their words. Martha Ward’s optimism is impossible to miss; she just knew that she would meet someone special after she went to a voodoo priestess. Lauren Weitzman creatively proposed to Stuart Drescher by tucking a note under a seat in the airport they would often fly through, sending him a map so he could find it.

The narratives are long enough to tell a good story, but short enough to keep me interested in the love stories of strangers. These are gripping, wonderfully human stories that struck emotional chords in me.

There are sweet stories, like that of Rachel Perez Salazar and Ruben Paul Salazar. They began writing to each other after an errant email was sent to the wrong RP Salazar. Despite the distance between Texas and Thailand, they became best friends, eventually marrying!

There are heartbreaking stories. In 1990, shortly after Cindy White met Eric Ernsberger, she found out that he ex-husband had infected her with HIV—and she had passed it along to her new boyfriend. But when she told him the news, he said, “It’s a blessing that I’m HIV positive, because we can do this together.” After years of caring for each other through healthy and sick times, he passed away, but he never lost his positive outlook. Cindy concluded,

The truth is, falling in love doesn’t save us from the big, bad, icky things that can happen in the world. But the thing I’d want for people to know the most about Dan and I is that we had an incredible love story despite a horrible virus. And I don’t believe I’m here because of anything less than his love for me.

And there are bittersweet, uplifting stories. Leroy Morgan remembers his wife, Vivian, and six things they always said to each other to have a happy marriage: You look great, Can I help?, Let’s eat out, I was wrong, I am sorry, and I love you.

It’s impossible to read these stories and not think of someone you’ve loved and lost. But the stories are ultimately optimistic, even when they don’t end perfectly. As Elliot and Hunny Reiken say, “Being unhappy is part of being happy.” Leave it to me to find the dark side of love, but there is plenty here for the more romantically inclined.

Dave Isay and StoryCorps have done an excellent job capturing the stories and voices of real people. I’m very interested in reading more volumes from this project.

Quote of Note:

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell.“
– Edna St. Vincent Millay, quoted by Granvillette Kestenbaum, whose husband of thirty-one years lost his life in the World Trade Center attacks

Interested? Read it for yourself! Buy All There Is from an independent bookstore or Amazon (Kindle edition).

I receive a very, very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have been saying:

January 31: Amused By Books
February 1: A Bookish Way of Life
February 2: Amusing Review
February 3: Book Hooked Blog
February 7: Layers of Thought
February 10: Chick Lit Reviews and News
February 15: Suko’s Notebook
February 16: The Book Chick
February 20: Reviews from the Heart
TBD: Teresa’s Reading Corner

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