True Love

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The beloved author of the modern classic book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten  now tackles life's most mysterious, joyous and most confusing topic — love. An irresistible collection of real-life love stories, mixed with Robert Fulghum's own quirky insights and unmistakable homespun observations, True Love tells the many unpredictable tales of love. Here it is: the intriguing story of the woman who marries her mother's high school flame; a man who learns that "old love" and new pajamas are...

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The beloved author of the modern classic book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten  now tackles life's most mysterious, joyous and most confusing topic — love. An irresistible collection of real-life love stories, mixed with Robert Fulghum's own quirky insights and unmistakable homespun observations, True Love tells the many unpredictable tales of love. Here it is: the intriguing story of the woman who marries her mother's high school flame; a man who learns that "old love" and new pajamas are a dangerous mix; a man who miraculously reunites with his first love (after 20 years) on an LA freeway; the touching tale of a husband's love for his wife after her disabling stroke; a 14-year-old's philosophy of looking for love on the boardwalk; the brief moment of connection of a smile shared at a stoplight; and so many more.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061096167
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 900L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Fulghum has made his living as a ditchdigger, cowboy, IBM salesman, folksinger, parish minister, bartender, newspaper columnist, and philosopher. His previous books, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on it, Maybe (Maybe Not), Uh-Oh, From Beginning to End, and True Love, have sold more than fifteen million copies in twentyseven languages in ninety-three countries. He has four children and seven grandchildren. He lives with his wife, a family physician, on a houseboat in Seattle, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt


Tell me a love story.
Not one you've read or heard. One you've lived.

For several years I've been asking that of friends and strangers--first in my book Uh-Oh and later in my newspaper column. The mail poured in from teenagers in the ecstatic pain of first love, from the elderly scrawling out sacred memories from retirement homes, from those who treasure a small forever based on a ten-second encounter, and from those whose love is measured in a lifetime of heartbeats. Mail came from thirty-six states and seven foreign countries. From writers age eight to age ninety-eight. From men and women, from straight and gay, from wise and foolish, from confused and sane. Handwritten on expensive stationery, printed on yellow legal-pad paper, and impeccably turned out by computer. Hundreds and hundreds of letters.

I expected gooey-sweet greeting-card sentiments but got salty surprises--nasty love and crazy love as well. I expected bluebird-and-rainbow love, but also got stormy love with lightning and hail and landslides. I expected mushy oatmeal love but got just as much steak-and-potatoes love. I expected meek-and-mild love, but got as much love made out of muscle and bone and blood.

Intrigued by the mail, I went looking for love stories from those who don't like to write or don't have time. I made a sign: Tell me a short love story and I will buy you coffee and make you famous and took the sign around to some of Seattle's neighborhood espresso houses, to a couple of bars, and to a neighborhood fair. The sign always drew a crowd--especially when people understood that the purpose of the love story project was to benefit Habitat forHumanity.

At first, getting people to talk candidly about love was a problem. More often than not, people would roll their eyes and laugh and say they had a love story, all right, but it wasn't short or sweet. With encouragement, they would tell the story anyhow, often entertaining our small audience with both the implausible plots of their stories and their skills as raconteurs.

Several people got standing ovations, drawing an even bigger crowd. "Hey, what's going on here?" "True love stories." "Really? I've got one you won't believe." And they did. Oddly enough, it is that quality of sheer unbelievability that makes a love story credible. If truth is stranger than fiction, then true love is even stranger.

Every story seemed to lead to another story. Closing a true-love storytelling session was much harder than getting one started. We've all been there. We'd all go back there, most likely.

On one occasion, a story was the beginning of a story yet to be told. A young woman listened enraptured as a young man told about being spurned in love. When he finished, she said she would never turn down a guy who felt that way about love. He wanted to know her story. They were still talking when I left. Who knows what happened next? In matters of love, everything is possible.

People sometimes said they had a story, but needed to get permission from someone else before they could share it. One example was a middle-aged man in suit and tie, carrying the Wall Street Journal both times I met him. The second day he came back to give me a pale blue envelope--perfumed--the kind used for personal correspondence. He said, "Before you read this, you should know that I've had it for at least ten years, that it's from my wife, to whom I am still married." Inside the envelope was a matching sheet of stationery, with these words written with pen and ink:

My dearest Harry:
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.
Respectfully, with all my love, Edna.

I smiled and looked up, anticipating the rest of the story.

He smiled as he refolded the note and put it back in the envelope.

"That's it," he said, and walked away.

The shortest love story of all I collected is this one: From a waifish little girl of about four years, who stands by, staring at me, sucking her thumb and holding a raggedy yellow blanket up to her face.

"Do you love your blanket?"

Child nods her head--Yes.

"Does your blanket love you?"

Child shakes head impatiently--No, of course not.

The child is not confused about love. She knows already. It's mostly a thing between people. In fact, I was impressed by how wise most people are about love. These sentences, taken from letters and conversations, stand out:

"Love is what you've been through with someone."

"The reasons you fall into love are often the same reasons for falling out."

"There's a big difference between the first time you fall in love and the first time falling in love really matters."

"You can't get the exact love you want--only the love someone can give."

"Every love story is unique--love is not a group activity."

"Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as meaningless experiences go, it's pretty high on the list."

I could go on--and will.

But first, read some of the stories.

Many of the stories begin in an ordinary way and end with a surprise. So surprising, in fact, that you may find yourself wondering if these stories really are true. I believe them. I know too much about real love not to. Everything anybody has ever said about love is true, just not all at once for all of us. Still, it's all true for somebody somewhere sometime. Love is the grand prize and the garbage heap. Love is a spiritual root canal and the only thing that makes life worth living. Love is a little taste of always and a big bite of nothing. And love is everything in between these extremes. It may be why there's that part in the wedding vows about "for better or worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health." It's the language of a realistic warranty for love.

The love we really live is all the love we really have.

And the love we really have is the love that's true.


More than forty people reviewed this manuscript before publication. When I asked if they had any advice for the reader, the response was near unanimous. I pass it along to you:

Don't read this book straight on through.
Too much true love can cause heartburn.
These stories are best if read a few at a time.
And they're even better when read aloud to someone you love.

Here is the entire text of a love letter intercepted by a second-grade schoolteacher, passed on to a parent who passed it on to me:

Dear Billy, if you don't say you love me and walk to the bus top with me I will kill myselfand beet you up. I love you and wan to marry you soon. Susy.

The little girl was eight at the time. The parent showed me the letter when the girl was twenty-four. At a rehearsal dinner. The day before Susy married Billy. During the service, I shared the letter with the guests and, in her vows, had Susy repeat after me: "I, Susy, promise you, Billy, never to kill myself or beat you up."

If the marriage lasts as long as her love, and her love is as large as the laughter in the ceremony, the odds are good for happy ever after.
--a minister, Bellevue, WA, as told to R. F.

You wanted really short love stories. This one's long but small. I go to the Pike Place Market in Seattle almost every Saturday morning to shop and carry on a love affair.

For several years I've bought flowers from a youngish woman who is a refugee from one of the hill tribes of Indo-China. For one thing, she has the freshest and most beautiful flowers. For another, she is a fresh and beautiful flower herself. I don't know her name, nor she mine. We don't speak the same language. To her, I must be just another customer.

She is spring to me. She's there with pussywillows, daffodils, and then irises. She's summer, with roses and sunflowers. She's fall, with dahlias and chrysanthemums. As the growing season comes to an end, she brings stems of fall leaves to sell, and then it's over. In winter, I miss her.

When we exchange flowers and money, I always try to briefly and slyly touch her hand. I always insist she keep the change and she always insists on giving me an extra flower.

Once I tried to buy all her flowers at once, but she just shook her head. "No." I don't know why. Maybe she, too, is in love with someone and wants to be there to sell him flowers when he comes.
--M. M., Seattle, WA

When I was a junior in college I took a course in the writing of D. H. Lawrence. I know this sounds really stupid, but I thought this was about Lawrence of Arabia, you know--the eccentric British desert warrior guy. I had seen the movie and I wanted to be him. I was not fully alert in college.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    Okay, first, I have to say that there are A FEW... VERY FEW...

    Okay, first, I have to say that there are A FEW... VERY FEW... stories in this book that are worth reading. Having said that... This book is the most amazing collection of stories of people who have the saddest, most empty lives you can imagine. Except for the few actual love stories, there are 2 kinds, which I call "almost" and "if only."

    This is the basic "almost" love story: "I saw the most beautiful stranger approaching as I walked down the street. I looked at him. He looked at me. We smiled at each other and kept walking, never to see each other again." Wow! True LOVE!!! And this is the ESSENCE of this book!

    And here is the basic "if only" story: "If only I'd had the nerve to..."

    But that's not the worst part! No, the worst part is that most of these people's lives are so empty that their stories end with them reminiscing DECADES LATER about this great romantic adventure, the "true love" that got away. When asked to come up with a love story, this is the best they have. This is the highlight of their lives, and NOTHING actually HAPPENED!!!
    And I have to ask, "Robert Fulghum, why in the world did you print this?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2000

    Is There a Book II for True Love?

    Before getting married this May 20th, I read 'True Love'. It inspired me to write my true love story and in fact had sent it to the address that was given at the end of 'True Love' for the next book 'True Love-Book II'. Unfortunately it came back stamped 'Addressee Moved, No forwarding address'. Can anyone help me find out if there is a Book II, and if so will there be submissions for it? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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