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All the Living by C.E. Morgan

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C.E. Morgan was named in 2009 a 5 under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation. Quite an honor. And then her 2017 novel, Sport of Kings, set in her home-town of Cincinnati, was a finalist for a Pulitzer and won the Kirkus Prize. As a graduate (majoring in voice) of Berea College and a subsequent resident of that town, she is familiar with the Eastern Kentucky mountains which provide the setting for All the Living. Some books keep me thinking how impressive the writing is, but do not make me want to keep reading. All the Living did both - impressed me and made me anxious to pick the book back up! The protagonist of this novel is Aloma, an orphan educated at a mountain mission school. She decides to move to an isolated mountain farm with her young lover, Orren, who has recently been orphaned by a car accident. Despite their isolation, a few other characters come into the picture, and they, too, are unusually well-drawn. The plot is driven by Aloma's ambiguity about whether to leave Orren and his farm or to solidify her commitment to him. Thematic depth, compelling style, characters, setting, and plot - this novel has it all.

London: Fourth Estate, 2009. Trade paperback.