Underscoring the importance of place in fiction, Eudora Welty once wrote, “One place understood helps us understand all places better.” For Morgan (All the Living), Kentucky is the place; she’s a longtime resident and an alumna of Berea College. Here, Henry Forge, the heir to a legacy estate in the state, dedicates both his fortune and life to the sport of kings. At Forge Run Farm, Henrietta, Henry’s daughter, tends to both her father’s aspirations for Hellsmouth, their award-winning filly thoroughbred, and her growing sexual predilections. However, when her attention turns toward Allmon, a black stable hand, Henrietta finds herself defying both her father’s racial prejudice and his dynastic aspirations. Though set in the 21st century, the narrative establishes each character’s backstory to reveal how the tendrils of the Bluegrass State’s racial history continue to color and coil around the present. Morgan also employs the pastoral vistas and calcium-rich bluegrass of Kentucky to tell a universal tale in a very specific setting. VERDICT A dense meditation on the ugliness that undergirds much of the sublime we as humans strive for and admire in life.