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Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York Hardcover – January 11, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Inspired by his parents' story of meeting in Washington Square Park, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Sabar (for My Father's Paradise) looks at the "environmental psychology" of New York City's iconic public spaces and asks, "Could some places actually encourage people to take the first steps toward falling in love?" A chance meeting in 1941 between a runaway teenage girl and a sailor in Central Park results in a marriage of 64 years. A recently separated woman taking the ferry to the Statue of Liberty meets a vacationing man and marries him two years later. Sabar introduces these stories with descriptions of the locations; rather than adding insight, however, they reveal an attempt to deepen a thin premise. Central Park, for instance, was conceived of "a social philosophy: that a city riven by economic stratification owed its masses an oasis from the ravages of toil." When a man meets his future wife in the subway, Sabar could be describing the city itself when he notes its appeal: "Anonymity-the ability to be simultaneously surrounded by and withdrawn from other people." Sabar may want readers to deeply consider his thesis but the strength of this effort lies in its sweetness.
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"A wonderful, life-affirming collection of romances, all the better because they're real" –- Daily Mail

"Books we love about love" --More magazine

"Cozy, seductive narratives [that] illustrate how NYC's adrenaline-spiking public spaces help steer potential lovers together" --Kirkus Reviews

"Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to meet one’s soul mate in the Big Apple, as these tales of real couples...attest." – Vogue

A "Great Read" -- People

"Charming true stories" -- St. Petersburg Times

"Quirky true tales about city landmarks and chance encounters" - New York Magazine

"New York has been described as a city of 8 million lonely people.
Don’t believe it. ... The stories touch the heart. They are poignant, compelling, absorbing, romantic, and just flat-out sweet. Reading them, even hardened cynics will feel the urge to hug someone." - Providence Journal

"The apparent connection between personal passion and public place inspires a beguiling romp into environmental psychology, which then leads to nine couples whose first encounter (and illuminating, sometimes bittersweet postscripts) represent 'an affirmation of the everyday miracle that is New York.'" - New York Times

"Love among the landmarks" – New York Daily News

"What to Read in 2011: New Titles Bound to Make a Splash" --Christian Science Monitor

Ask anyone from Woody Allen to Carrie Bradshaw: there's no love story quite like a New York City love story. In Heart of the City, Ariel Sabar tells nine true - and very moving - stories of people who met in the Big Apple.
--Town & Country

If you've ever felt romantic upon seeing the Chrysler Building at dusk or excited...by the rush [of] Times Square, you're not alone. [Sabar reports] on the science of attraction in man-made environments [and] offers true stories as evidence. --Elle

"Thoroughly engaging...A sparkling love letter to the city." --BookPage

"Charming, uplifting tales of romance"  – Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738213799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738213798
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,779,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Biblibio VINE VOICE on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't expect to like "Heart of the City" very much. I'm not that big a fan of New York City, nor do I typically go for mostly fluff-filled, purely "feel-good" books. And that's what "Heart of the City" is. Take the warmth of a romantic comedy, toss in a fascinating introduction, decades of stories and you get this small, incredibly "feel-good" book. Ultimately, it doesn't make for heavy duty reading but here's the thing: it's a really nice read.

I've not read Ariel Sabar's previous (much-loved) "My Father's Paradise", but I can see what makes Sabar a well regarded young author. Even in a collection of short (true) stories, Sabar maintains a clear, literary voice while somehow still making the stories ring with realistic truth. Though the stories are given certain sparkles and numerous details (to flesh the story out in a way that it does, in fact, feel whole), it works pretty well. The stories flow well, the language is clear without being over-indulgent and the stories progress at a believable, entertaining pace.

This is a light book. The stories are sweet. Sometimes even repetitive. The stories all have charming happy endings. The couples - some unlikely, some predictable and some downright fairy-tale-like - are human. Their stories aren't the deepest love stories you'll ever read. But it's incredibly sweet and heart-warming. Read quickly (in one evening, as I did) or one story at a time, it's just full of lovely stories of two people meeting in various circumstances and falling in love. Does "Heart of a City" really aim to be more than that? Not exactly. Yes, there's the constant aura of New York City in the stories. Yes, in many cases the love stories develop in part due to the location of the often serendipitous meeting of two soon-to-be lovers.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love NYC. My childhood was filled with my grandfather's turn of the century stories of his rough and tumble childhood in Chelsea and the Village. His parents met here. His grandfather was a policeman here. So it goes without saying that there's nothing I love better than a serendipitous story of the city that contains so much of my family history.

The way Ariel Sabar used specific locations in the city as the starting point for each story is brilliant. Places are especially important to New Yorkers. It's how we make the city ours. We remember every building we ever worked in. We point them out to our kids when we walk by or see them from the train. We make New York's places part of our history so we are part of its history - a history that is much larger than ourselves. At the same time we take something huge and overwhelming and weave it into something much more personal.

Each story reminded me of part of my own history and brought back floods of memories. But the most wonderful thing about these stories is that in each one I learned something new about my city and its "places".

Ariel Sabar has already proved himself to be a top class writer with the book "My Father's Paradise", but this is my favorite because, in the intangible way that New Yorkers are connected, these are my stories too.

If you enjoy the serendipitous way people are brought together, NYC, or both you will love this wonderful book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ariel Sabar got the idea for this book from his parent's chance meeting in Washington Square Park in New York many years ago. His father was born in a mud-brick hut in the mountains of Iraq and his mother was born to a Manhattan CEO and his wife in New York and if it hadn't been for the meeting in the park where his father had gone to clear his head and to think, and his mother was taking photos, they never would have met and gotten married. This made our author, Ariel, wonder how many other chance meetings took place in parks or other famous areas the city, meetings that would unlikely have happened anywhere else. After looking through old records, newspaper articles and internet search results, he came up with subjects who met and fell in love in New York City, spanning the years from the 1940's to the present.

There are nine stories in all. Not all of the subjects lived in New York, many lived in other places. The one thing they all shared was that they met there and the places they met probably added to the chance that they would fall in love and later marry. The stories are fairly short and easy to read. The real life characters are diverse in personalities and come from a lot of other backgrounds and places. Some are more interesting than others. The thing I liked is that there's a section in the back of the book called "Postscripts" that tell what happened to the people in the stories and where they are now and how their romance played out. I turned to the postscripts after reading each story.

For anyone who finds a certain magic in the places and history that make up New York City, I think you'd enjoy reading this book. I think it might also make a unique Valentines Day gift for a special person in your life who might also be fascinated by this great city.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is much much more than (as its subtitle tells us) "nine stories of love and serendipity on the streets of New York." Even if it weren't it would still be beautifully written and very moving. But as Sabar intimates and even promises in the introduction, the stories of nine couples who met in public spaces in New York City at various times over the past seventy-someard years reveal how place, architecture, and environment influence human interaction far more than usually acknowledged. The author's father, in recounting how he was able to speak to his wife upon meeting her in a New York City park decades ago, says, "The park shrank the city. It slowed time... Once inside.. people ceased being strangers." The immediate physical environment apparently has as much to do with romance as fate does. As Ecological Psychologist Roger Garlock Barker puts it, "If you want to know how someone is acting... don't tell me who they are- tell me where they are."

Just as the various loci (from Washington Square Park to The Statue of Liberty to The Metropolitan Museum of Art) affect the mood and spirit of the encounters being depicted, the various time periods (from WWII to the 1950s to the early-aughts) affect the prose style of each episode. The stories are not dryly-recounted documentary-style accounts but are rather protean gems carefully-crafted as short stories, replete with period slang and mannerisms. This is part of what makes Heart of the City much more than a series of light romances.

The book's structure is great. Each of the nine episodes has a corresponding "postscript" in the back which gives the reader a behind-the-scenes look at how the author discovered each story and how he went about contacting the couple (sometimes many decades later) and researching their story.
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