All the Living: A Novel

by C. E. Morgan

Paperback, 2010

Call number

FIC MOR

Collection

Publication

Picador (2010), Edition: First Edition, 199 pages

Description

Moving to a remote tobacco farm that her lover inherited when the rest of his family was killed in a terrible accident, a young woman in 1984 Kentucky struggles with their isolated life, her lover's grief, and a budding friendship with a dynamic young preacher.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bruchu
A Timeless Gem

I just finished C.E. Morgan's "All The Living" and I must say that I really enjoyed it. Morgan beautifully captures rural life and as a reader you really feel the tension between the characters she creates. While I was reading, the writing kept reminding me of Robert James Waller's
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"Bridges of Madison County" -- Morgan is able to describe great complexity through simplistic imagery.

If you are looking for a short afternoon read, I definitely recommend "All The Living" -- just a wonderfully written novel that was very enjoyable to read.
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LibraryThing member Vidalia
Timeless - If it weren't for the farm trucks and photographs on the wall, the story could take place in any time period. It's as if time is suspended as the author focuses on place and human relationships. Brilliantly written and absorbing.
LibraryThing member briantomlin
A young woman from poverty in the rural south goes to live with her lover on his farm after his entire family is killed in an accident. A story rich with details of people acting, living and thinking by themselves and yet forced to relate to one another.

Much has been made about this being C.E.
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Morgan's first novel, and rightly so, because their is a depth of feeling, a wealth of human experience captured just so in the language. The author has a special gift for crafting a story; she reveals the exposition cautiously but with just the right intriguing pace. She doesn't overstate, she lets the images do much of the work in telling the story.

One of those recurring images is sex, presenting here in a raw form. Aloma and Orren's sexual relationship shows the powerful human need for sex and also the ways sex can be used as a tool. It is refreshing to see a female character honestly, directly face her sexual nature, but it comes off as sort of passively accepting what he world brings instead of taking ownership of the experience. The choices the characters make, not just sexually, affect not only themselves but others, and yet the characters seem so often pulled along by fate.

As beautifully written as the book is, it is a heartbreaking tale of people who do not know how to relate to one another. Aloma, the lead female character, blindly accepts conventional female roles, puts her own dreams of accomplishment last, and seems to value her partner primarily through sex. It sin't that this isn't realistically portrayed, but that it is profoundly sad. Again, though, it is a magnificently constructed novel in that it shows this sadness, these situations the characters are in, and it doesn't try to judge or make tidy solutions. The reader can think about the story, and this is one story that promises to stay with the reader long after the book has been put down.
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LibraryThing member writergirl
Packs an emotional punch in a short space. Morgan's writing sounds like this could have been written in another era, but it is still very readable. The story of a young couple living on a remote tobacco farm - one trying for happiness and the other for survival - is a story that will leave you
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thinking about it long after the last page is read.
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LibraryThing member shanjan
I have never been to tobacco farm in rural Kentucky, but after reading All the Living by C.E. Morgan I felt the dust on my skin and watched the plants grow and prayed for rain with the Orren and Aloma, the two main characters whose struggles with love, death and the land are beautifully
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intertwined.

Morgan breathes life into the setting of this novel with vivid details and beautiful language. Her characters are complex and sympathetic. Morgan's carefully chosen words make her characters alive and bring the reader into their hearts, especially Aloma from whose point of view the story is narrated.

A gifted piano player, Aloma finds herself moving to a rural farm after an brief but intense love affair with Orren, the farm's owner. Aloma finds herself vying with the ghosts of Orren's mother and brother for Orren's attention. She also finds herself grappling with her own conscience as she begins to fall in love with the Bell, town's preacher who she meets when she gets a job as the church piano player.

While Aloma embraces the living, shown through her ability to deal with her own tragic past and her love of music, which is by no coincidence strongly connected to Bell, Orren embraces the dead, choosing to live in a falling down farm house, while keeping a newer home as a shrine to his mother and brother who were killed in a car accident. Orren's struggle to keep his family farm parallels his internal struggle as he grieves for his family. He eventually must chose between the dead, his family, and the living, Aloma.

Much as a beautifully composed piece of music, Morgan unwinds her tale at a measured pace, which wraps back to its refrain at several points before the masterfully crafted exposition. Every element of this novel is thoughtful and well considered. Take, for example, her use of well chosen names; Bell draws to mind clarity and has musical qualities, Aloma means dove, and Orren a.k.a. Orpheus, a character from Greek mythology considered to be strongly connected with poetry and music and, here's the clincher, one of only a few Greek heros ever to return from the underworld. Symbols are flawlessly embedded into the story and along with all other aspects of the novel contribute to the feeling that this piece of writing was deftly honed to the smallest detail.

This is a short novel, but by no means a small novel. The plot, characters, literary conventions and language are the product of a adroit writer, but what makes this novel all the more impressive is that it is Morgan's fist novel. It would make an excellent choice for a book group discussion or for anyone who enjoys good literature. I would highly recommend this book and am anxiously awaiting Morgan's next novel!
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LibraryThing member ccayne
Beautifully written unusual story of an orphaned girl, Alomoa, who goes to college in rural Kentucky, learns to play piano, meets Orren a young man who inherits a tobacco farm after his mother and brother are killed in an accident. Eventually she moves there and it tests her and their bond. She
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feels lost, he's so focussed on keeping the farm afloat and they come together in bed and not much of anywhere else. What saves her is her chance to play piano in a church run by a man she becomes infatuated with. Aloma is struggling to find her place; she doesn't know how to do it or how to relate to people - as an orphan she never had an example of how family treats one another. She doesn't seem to understand the expectations and responsibilities towards people who are close to her and for whom she has feelings - i wouldn't call it love. Morgan tells the story patiently and well.
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LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Last year I had the great pleasure of reading C.E. Morgan's The Sport of Kings, an epic family saga that centers on horse racing. The Sport of Kings was my favorite read in 2016. It was so rich in language, character, and story. Once I finished it, I was eager to read Morgan's debut novel, a book
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that had been sitting on my bookshelf, largely unnoticed, for years.

At first appearance, All the Living is definitely a different sort of novel than The Sport of Kings. While The Sport... was a mammoth volume in weight and appearance, All the Living is a tiny thing, easily read in under six hours. The scope is much smaller, as well. While Morgan's second novel fills in backstory and spends considerable time with entire generations, All the Living jumps right in and most of the novel focuses on the couple, Aloma and Orren. Keeping that in mind, All the Living didn't have the punch that its successor had, but it had no problems standing on its own.

In such a small space, Morgan succeeds in forming a story that is full and enclosed in rich language. Despite the constraints, the story never feels rushed, neither does it feel incomplete or plain. I was surprised by how easily I was swept up into this tale with so little movement. Where the novel lacks, however, is in characters. These are great characters, but they're not as developed as I'd have liked them to have been. I don't really feel like I particularly understand either Orren or Aloma. When they make drastic choices, I'm not convinced that there actions are believable because I really do not understand the character. This is especially true with Aloma, a character that is extremely interesting, but not fully rounded. I'd have liked more time to get to know her and understand what she'd been through before page 1.

All the Living captures a distinct rhythm that was also present in Morgan's second novel. She builds worlds that you can see and feel, but also hear. Any well written book can transport the reader to another place, but with C.E. Morgan, it feels a little more vivid, as though maybe you'd actually been there. I look forward to visiting the next place she takes me.
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LibraryThing member avhacker
i liked this book! it had a lot of feeling and i liked how there were no quotations. however the book moved too fast and there was no story to the characters. i liked it but i probaky wouldn't recommendd it.
LibraryThing member marient
Aloma is an orphan, raised by her aunt and uncle, educated at a mission school in the Kentucky mountains. Aloma goes to live with Orren whose family died in an accident. Orren is overworked and withdrawn . The young couple has a lot to work through.
LibraryThing member markfinl
I really wanted this book to be better, especially after I had read comparisons to Marilynne Robinson on Goodreads. Don't believe it. This book is all surface, there is none of the psychological depth that there is in Robinson's work. It's a simple story, simply told, more Elizabeth Berg than
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Marilynne Robinson.
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LibraryThing member Quiltinfun06
All the Living by C. E. Morgan is a book about raw feelings of love and being alone. The characters Orren and Aloma are held together by a fierce sexual relationship that they believe to be love.

Orren has just inherited the family tobacco farm after the death of his family. As the sole survivor he
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is driven to continue the farming even though he is ill prepared for it.

Aloma is an orphan that has graduated from the mission school with the ability to place piano. She dreams of this skill becoming her vehicle out of the mountains.

As they both struggle with being "alone" they become involved in the search of finding love and happiness. Is this possible for either of them and will their relationship survive strife and turmoil.

I believe All the Living would make for a great book discussion for book clubs. I am happy to have read it.
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LibraryThing member theeccentriclady
I think many people will find fault in what seems to be a simple “backwoods” book that takes a look at a young couple from Appalachia who find themselves in a more mature situation than they were expecting. Life moves forward much to fast because of the death of Orren’s family. He finds
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himself alone to run the family farm and Aloma, with not much of a future as far as she can see, goes with him to live on the farm. There are much deeper ideas underlying what is actually written in this book and Miss Morgan allows you the space to delve deeper into what you think you would do in each situation. Should Aloma stay? Should she have even gone in the first place? Why did she go? Before judging this relationship and deeming this book “bad” I began to think, how many actual marriages have begun just like Orren and Aloma’s relationship? I think a lot have and the struggles they have in the growth of their relationship are true and deep. Will they make it? Do they have what it takes to last for 30 years? Who knows but I think Miss Morgan did a wonderful job portraying the give and take and the major differences between women and men on a basic level and showed us how we can love when then ones we love are not perfect. How life is not perfect but we make choices that work for us.
Miss Morgan uses a very descriptive way in which she writes. I realize some people do not enjoy this type of literature but I felt I was in the hills of KY or Virginia. I could feel and see the landscapes as she described them. It moves like a movie in my mind.
This book is worth the time to read if you like reading about relationships, struggles, life lessons and the Appalachian areas. Lot’s to discuss for a book club.
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LibraryThing member theeccentriclady
I think many people will find fault in what seems to be a simple “backwoods” book that takes a look at a young couple from Appalachia who find themselves in a more mature situation than they were expecting. Life moves forward much to fast because of the death of Orren’s family. He finds
Show More
himself alone to run the family farm and Aloma, with not much of a future as far as she can see, goes with him to live on the farm. There are much deeper ideas underlying what is actually written in this book and Miss Morgan allows you the space to delve deeper into what you think you would do in each situation. Should Aloma stay? Should she have even gone in the first place? Why did she go? Before judging this relationship and deeming this book “bad” I began to think, how many actual marriages have begun just like Orren and Aloma’s relationship? I think a lot have and the struggles they have in the growth of their relationship are true and deep. Will they make it? Do they have what it takes to last for 30 years? Who knows but I think Miss Morgan did a wonderful job portraying the give and take and the major differences between women and men on a basic level and showed us how we can love when then ones we love are not perfect. How life is not perfect but we make choices that work for us.
Miss Morgan uses a very descriptive way in which she writes. I realize some people do not enjoy this type of literature but I felt I was in the hills of KY or Virginia. I could feel and see the landscapes as she described them. It moves like a movie in my mind.
This book is worth the time to read if you like reading about relationships, struggles, life lessons and the Appalachian areas. Lot’s to discuss for a book club.
Show Less
LibraryThing member klburnside
It's hard to give an accurate rating to this book because I read it over such a spread out amount of time. I really liked the descriptions of the setting of rural Kentucky and the writing was good. I just wasn't that drawn in to the characters or the story line.
LibraryThing member bodachliath
This is a very impressive debut novel, poignant and full of wonderfully atmospheric and poetic descriptions that really bring its remote Kentucky tobacco farm setting to life. To a British eye/ear, much of the language feels quite alien - there is plenty of local slang and Morgan does seem to like
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creative usages of nouns and adjectives as verbs.
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Awards

Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2011)
Ohioana Book Award (Finalist — Fiction — 2010)
PEN/Hemingway Award (Nominee — Finalist - 2010)
Young Lions Fiction Award (Finalist — 2010)
Spear's Book Award (Spear's — Novel — 2009)
Weatherford Award (Fiction and Poetry — 2009)

Pages

199

ISBN

0312429320 / 9780312429324
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