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All the Living

by C.E. Morgan


All the Living is C.E. Morgan’s literary debut.  It is the story of Aloma, a young woman whose parents died when she was three, and Orren, a handsome young man. Aloma grew up at a Mission School.  She remained there as an adult as the staff pianist. It was there she met Orren, when he visited the school. They began a torrid affair. When Orren’s family is killed, he inherits the family farm. Aloma quickly moves to Kentucky to live with him. There they live a harsh life under stark conditions. They must learn to understand each other as well as themselves.  Each grapples with their feelings about love, life, and death in a different way.  Will Orren ever understand Aloma’s need to play the piano?  Will Aloma realize the depth and the meaning to Orren’s obsession with keeping the farm working?

There are some books which seem destined for the big screen.  This book is not one of them.  It is far too good.  No screenplay writer could do this justice.  Morgan’s magic with words and turn of phrase are a treasure, exactly as it is written.

Rarely has a book of less than 200 pages been able to tell such a deep and remarkable story. The unusual practice of no quotation marks during dialogue may initially cause a bit of a distance from the characters for the reader.  I felt much like I was peeking through a window into their lives.  In short order though, I felt as though I were right there with them.  Despite the sometimes regional and uncommon dialect, the book relays a layered plot, most often using everyday language.  A character’s thoughts, an event, the mental images the reader becomes absorbed in, all could mean everything— or nothing at all.  There is a feeling of emptiness and of a natural stillness in the story that chilled my soul.  However, as the saying goes, "still waters run deep." Sometimes the silt rises to the surface, clouding the water, but eventually giving way to movement and clarity.  Early on in the book, the phrase "a bookless voice" is used. While I have never heard or read that phrase before, and I’m now using a different context, I can say with confidence that this book most certainly has a very strong voice. This book is a winner and for all adult readers.

The Book

Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan
March 31, 2009
Literary Fiction
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The Reviewer

Laura Hinds
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Laura Hinds is an experienced freelance writer whose first novel, Are You Gonna Eat That Banana, just came out in 2009.
© 2009