All the Living by C. E. Morgan

Published: 2009 1. First lines 2. Cover Fourth Estate 3. Music book. [Public Domain] via Pxhere 4. Decaying house. [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr Original image cropped and desaturated.

Set in Kentucky in 1984, Orren is working his parents’ tobacco farm alone after his family dies. He meets Aloma, a young woman also without family, and they move in together at the farm. Aloma is lonely, missing her piano, so she volunteers to play at the local church. This causes tension with Orren, who spends all his waking hours working on the farm.

“A soul loves most what is lost.”

Kirkus called it “a somber, heartfelt and flawed debut” and ”wearying” citing the author’s ”tendency to describe everything in lyrical, lavish detail.” However, the LA Times called the writing “simply astonishing”. This reader really enjoyed the writing, even though at times it felt a bit like the author was trying out obscure words.


“The ragged porch clung weakly to the wall of the building, its floorboards lining out from the door, their splintering gray now naked to the elements that first undressed them. When she tested a board with one foot, the wood ached and sounded under her, but did not move.”

“… the wrecking blast of the funnel cloud was also God’s creation along with the dirt of the farm and her stricken face and all the rest of the living too.”

“She hesitated, her hands hovering above the keys. Then she played. And she played, not with the smoothness that she’d possessed two months ago—the last time she’s played from any of the scores—but with a surging and unsteady need that had not been there before.”

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