Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book Review: All the Living by C. E. Morgan

I picked up quite a few books at SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Trade Show. One that stood out to me, even just the packaging, was All the Living by C. E. Morgan. This book will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux, and is set for release in April.

Set in Kentucky in the 1980s, Aloma moves in with her boyfriend Orren in his rural hometown after he inherits his mother's tobacco farm. The isolated location proves to be hard for both Aloma (who is dying to get out of the confines of the mountains and Kentucky) and her grief-stricken reason for being there, Orren. She finds relief in the day-to-day activities of keeping up the farm and playing piano for the local church, but even that does not silence the restless she that saddles her.

C.E. Morgan paints a compelling, primitively sexual relationship between the two lovers and the difficulty of surviving grief and the hardships of farming. It is her debut novel, and she truly does a fantastic job of throwing the two characters together, fusing their relationship with tumult and loneliness and longing, showing how both Orren and Aloma need each other, even when they want more than anything to be free of the responsiblity of their love.

I could feel the humidity and the cicadas of Morgan's Kentucky evenings, hear the notes of Aloma's piano practices in the small church, and felt the wrenching pain the young, unmarried adults were causing each other in their own quest for peace within themselves. I highly recommend this book when it surfaces in April - it is a fast and easy read, but due not to lack of literary merit, but because of her ease of language and character development. It is hard to put down and once you do, you will be better for the story of Aloma and Orren.

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