C.E. Morgan’s debut novel is fiercely beautiful. The language is clear, precise and evocative of the landscape within the novel. The story itself is a love story, in a way.
The novel opens when Aloma returns with Orren to his family’s farm after an accident kills his brother and mother. Orren needs to prove—to the town and to himself—that he can handle what he has never been taught to manage. Aloma, orphaned as a child, goes with Orren in order to begin anew.
Their love is not easy. She is a talented pianist, but he doesn’t understand her need for music. He struggles with the drought, but she doesn’t grasp his desperation. Neither Orren nor Aloma want people in town to know they aren’t married and when that fact is revealed, it brings with it a hefty shame.
As the novel unfolds, it seems as though these two might only have passion in common—and they have plenty of that. But, as their communication breaks down and as they grow more tired, confused and lonely, we wonder if their young love will survive.
This book is not in any way a typical romance novel (if there even is such a thing). Orren and Aloma are young and in love but their emotions are far from straight-forward. Their struggles feel authentically complicated, their lives richly textured.
“All the Living” is sweet, honest, tender, and heartbreaking. It’s a rare gem of a book.