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All There Is

These love stories recorded by StoryCorps remind us what matters most.

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All There Is: Love Stories from Storycorps
By Dave Isay
Penguin Group
176 pp.

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Love got you down? There’s encouragement aplenty in All There Is, Dave Isay’s compilation of personal tales of true love recorded by the StoryCorps initiative. This book is sweeter – and occasionally gooier – than a box of chocolates.

One salient impression from these generally uplifting testimonials is the strong correlation between avid communication and long-term romantic happiness. In story after story, couples meet – usually by chance – and end up talking for hours, often all night. Then – and here’s the rich center of these sweet relationships – they continue the conversation through decades, right up to their recorded interview. (Granted, StoryCorps, which seeks out people willing to articulate their life narratives for the record, probably attracts a self-selected, more naturally loquacious sampling of the population. There are no doubt plenty of successful relationships with a less verbal core.)

Since it was launched in 2003, StoryCorps has collected the personal stories of some 75,000 people, focusing on those “who are often excluded from the historical record.” Isay notes that “Almost all of the interviews we collect touch on the great themes of human existence, and ... there can be no question that the greatest of these themes is love.” “All There Is” includes more than three dozen tales of romantic love, each rigorously edited down to a few pages from 40 minutes of tape. They are divided into three categories: love found, love lost, and love at last.

Like Isay’s 2010 volume, “Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps,” the focus is positive – these are mainly heartwarming celebrations. I assume there are bitter tales in the archives, or angrier, more intense interchanges, but you won’t find them here. If it’s irony or edginess you’re after, look elsewhere.

“All There Is” has been assembled with an eye toward diversity and inclusiveness over literary prowess. Cleverness and originality are not the point. The point is earnestness, feelings spoken from the heart. True love, alas, often comes across as trite – though never, I dare say, to those lucky enough to experience it.

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