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A new book examines how finding love is often a tale of right place, right time.


In Heart of the City: Nine Stories of Love and Serendipity on the Streets of New York (Da Capo, $24), Ariel Sabar marries the science of crowds and the randomness of love at first sight to heart-melting results.

As revealed in his National Book Critics Circle Award–winning memoir, My Father’s Paradise, Sabar’s own parents — one a native of Kurdish Iraq and the other the daughter of well-off Manhattan dwellers — met by chance in New York City’s Washington Square Park. This set Sabar to wondering whether public spaces play a role as matchmaker. Before turning to the nine charming real-life love stories (take this opportunity to set a box of tissues by your armchair), Sabar provides a scientific rundown of what makes public spaces attractive to people and why they prime individuals to open up to each other.

The tales, which span from 1941 to the present and take place at various New York City landmarks, each describe the moment a spark lit between two everyday people. And all share a sense that romance would not have gotten a foothold in another time or place.

In a telephone interview, the 39-year-old Sabar — who lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife (whom he met in a Brown University cafeteria) and their two children — said that many of the priests, rabbis and wedding photographers he spoke to while he was researching the book noted that as more couples are becoming acquainted online, serendipitous stories like these are decreasing in number. Yet Sabar doesn’t believe Facebook will ever replace face time. “Last time I checked,” he reasoned, “you couldn’t send pheromones through e-mail.”