One summer, a young woman travels with her lover to the isolated tobacco farm he has inherited after his family dies in a terrible accident. As Orren works to save his family farm from drought, Aloma struggles with the loneliness of farm life and must find her way in a combative, erotically-charged relationship with a grieving, taciturn man. A budding friendship with a handsome and dynamic young preacher further complicates her growing sense of dissatisfaction. As she considers whether to stay with Orren or to leave, she grapples with the finality of loss and death, and the eternal question of whether it is better to fight for freedom or submit to love.
All the Living has the timeless quality of a parable, but is also a perfect evocation of a time and place, a portrait of both age-old conflicts and modern life. It is an ode to the starve-acre Southern farm, the mountain landscape, and difficult love. In her lyrical and moving debut novel, C.E. Morgan recalls both the serenity of Marilynne Robinson and the shifting emotional currents and unashamed eroticism of James Salter. It is an unforgettable book from a major new voice.
“Lack is everywhere in All the Living. Lack of rain, lack of cash, lack of other, less tangible things. From the first pages of C. E. Morgan’s gripping, sensual debut novel, the contemporary Kentucky countryside sprawls into view . . . On this haunted background, Morgan paints a lush portrait of love in a bleak landscape . . . Morgan at once probes and tempers this privation in rich, poetic prose. She knows the land and her characters in minute detail and sets them forth with startling, lyric certainty . . . Morgan attended divinity school, and there is a sense of conjuring in her language; her prose is both earthbound and hymnlike, with the slight inflection of southern scripture.” —Bookforum
“Morgan delivers an energetic novel ripe with both spiritual undercurrents and hardscrabble realism. Like Cormac McCarthy, she shows an attachment to working people, the land, and a kind of contemporary country timelessness.” —Venus Zine
“Shimmering with sensibility, Morgan’s stunning debut novel traces the emotional awakening of a young woman perched precariously between worlds and desires . . . Morgan pierces the skin of her characters with a depth and sensitivity seldom displayed by a first-time novelist, and the transfixing story arc is supported by beautifully descriptive passages and her unfailing ear for regional dialect. Brimming with discussion-worthy themes, this is sure to be a popular book-club choice.” —Booklist