The Well and The Mine

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-When you close the book, you-ll miss these characters. But The Well and the Mine doesn-t just give you characters who-ll stay with you-it gives you a whole world.--Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man.A novel of warmth and true feeling, The Well and the Mine explores the value of community, charity, family, and hope that we can give each other during a time of hardship.In a small Alabama coal-mining town during the summer of 1931, nine-year-old Tess Moore sits on her back porch and watches a woman toss a baby into her family-s well without a word. This shocking act of violence sets in motion a chain of events that forces Tess and her older sister Virgie to look beyond their own door and learn the value of kindness and lending a helping hand. As Tess and Virgie try to solve the mystery of the well, an accident puts their seven-year-old brother-s life in danger, revealing just what sorts of sacrifices their parents Albert and Leta have made in order to give their children a better life, and the power of love and compassion to provide comfort to those we love.

Customer Reviews:

    My mother was gifted with this book today, on her 74th birthday, and she was raised in Carbon Hill, Alabama. Yes, there really is such a place. My grandfather was a coal miner all his life, so she always says she was the 'original' coal miner's daughter! We went to Carbon Hill often to visit my grandparents during my growing-up years, until their deaths. I will be ordering my own copy and...CAN'T WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK!!...more info
  • wow..written like a beautiful play
    LOVED!!!! this book. the story, the writing style, the time period, the characters, everything (the husband is my favorite character). This book is written like a beautiful play. in many ways it reminds me of the play "Our Town"...but better. if you only read two books this year make this and "water for elephants"........more info
  • The well and the mine
    Gin done a wonderful job with this book, so much insight. Brought back forgotten memories,such as the butter mold, varnishing floors, etc. I enjoyed it very much.Margo...more info
  • The Well and the Mine is breathtaking.
    Gin Phillips deserves every ounce of attention she receives for The Well and the Mine. This is a breathtaking first novel. Phillips paces the story in perfect rhythm with the lives of these deceivingly simple characters. Her research into the everyday details of 1931 rural Alabama is matched only by her deft craftsmanship and pitch-perfect voices. The plot here (which is very compelling) moves at the pace of the river, slowly unraveling each member of this vividly rendered family into fully realized human beings, wrought with their own loves and hopes and worries and fears. We face heightened racism, poverty, and suspicion in Carbon Hill, Alabama, but we also witness the irresistible goodness of a devoted family holding each day to a standard long lost in modern culture. Late in the novel, the youngest child in the Moore family says, "I'd listened to Pop good enough to make his story mine." Phillips has listened well, very well, and while her story navigates a gulf of southern traditions, this gorgeously complicated novel is entirely her own. ...more info
  • The Well and The Mine
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. A well planned, researched and thought out debut novel for Ms. Phillips. She touches one a number of important topics that people faced in the 1930's with out trying too hard; some novels can really push the issue of race or the hardship of the depression to a point that it over shadows the story being told, Philips did a wonderful job not doing that. The reader got to know what kind of people her characters were and to know them from the inside. I did find a lack of physical description though, it was as if I was looking at the characters without my glasses on, they were there and I loved them but I couldn't see what they looked like. That being said this novel was everything a southern historical novel should be. Simple, shocking and sweet....more info
    An excellent read. Couldn't put it down. Enjoyed the setting--in the South and the family! Quite a great writer with a way of words....more info
  • Beautifully written debut
    Set in Alabama in the 1930s, The Well and the Mine is the story of a family. Father Albert works hard in the mines, is respected by his peers and has come to the realization that under ground, covered with dirt, all men are equal, black and white. Mother Leta works hard at home where the family grows much of their own food. She's the sort of woman who makes breakfast and tells her husband she'll eat with the children, and when they wake up she tells them she ate with their father. Oldest daughter Virgie is the beauty of the family, unsure about boys who want to walk her home. Tess is the middle child, the precocious one we get to know best. Finally, youngest son Jack is somewhat in the background; what we learn from him comes from the perspective of adulthood.

    When the story opens, Tess is relaxing on the porch at dusk when a woman approaches and drops a baby into the family's well. Tess and Virgie decide to try to figure out who the mystery woman is, paying calls to neighbors and acquaintances. Throughout the story, it is obvious that the family is poor, but the girls see a different life being lived in some of their neighbors' homes, where there is not always food to eat or shoes to wear. In the end, the mystery woman is discovered but that is not really the point of this novel. It is the story of the struggle and triumph of a family. The story comes full circle thanks to adult Jack's point of view and there is satisfaction in knowing how things turn out for this family.

    The Well and the Mine is a beautifully written debut novel by Gin Phillips. She had me at hello, as they say. I felt completely immersed in the world she created; it was Southern and hot, racial tensions were running high, and I could smell and taste the food Leta prepared. At times, the characters seemed almost too good to be true, but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of this book. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Captivating story intricately woven together through its characters
    The Well and the Mine's exceptional description of life in a poor Southern community is inspiring. The hard working and gentle spirit of the characters combined with issues of poverty, race and the storyline (mystery of the baby dropped in the well) are captivating. Gin Phillip's writing transports the reader to another time. So much so, I believe that the book should also come with a steamy, southern-style biscuit. Congratulations to Gin Phillips on this wonderful first novel. I look forward to more from this author. ...more info
  • Southern Sense of Place
    This lovely story of ordinary people, doing ordinary things, in extraordinary times is a beautiful example of southern life where poverty is common yet never an excuse. People work hard, they take care of each other, and they find joy in simple things. This book captures the dialect of the South and the reader feels the cold, wet darkness of the mine as well as the sunny fields essential to the family's life. I loved it! ...more info
  • Superb Southern Novel from Debut Novelist
    It's no wonder this book is getting huge buzz--it's a fantastic read that would appeal to anyone who loves Southern literature from the work of Fannie Flagg to Flannery O'Connor's; from Anne Rivers Siddon's books to William Faulkner novels. Really, this book appeals to anyone who loves a good story, rendered well. Phillips writing is somehow simultaneously fluid and hard-edged, and she knows her characters well enough to make their lives feel real to readers. This is one of the best books I've read in 2008. Highly recommended....more info
  • The Well and the Mine
    It was a good book, well written, but predictable. About 2/3 of the way thru the book, you knew what was going to happen. Still, an enjoyable read....more info
  • SO GOOD!!!!
    this book was so good! i loved the characters and the story. it will not waste your time. ...more info
  • Exceptional Talent
    What a beautifully written book. Readers will find this new author's first novel refreshing in so many ways. The characters are well developed, the words are carefully chosen and the story is captivating. Gin Phillips is an exceptional talent whose work is being noticed. ...more info
  • Gleaming Moments in the Dark
    ..."the right answer could be more than one thing at the same time."

    That's the last line of "The Well and the Mine", by Gin Phillips. I begin with that because when thinking about my review of this book, I realized that I had no set answer to the question about how I felt about it.

    I'm neither from the South or a small town nor did I grow up in the 1930's. I am dependent on what I read and hear and watch to get some sense of what that life must have been like. In this book, I get some vivid glimpses of what for me is usually a slow motion, sepia movie. Some smells and sounds and tastes burst forth through Miller's words.

    "With your teeth about gone and your stomach not handling much, I could see how fruit would be on your mind, how a taste of sunshine and breeze might hold you over until you're wrapped up in blankets, sore from not leaving the bed for so long. When you pass away in the summer, they can bring the summer into you."

    With passages like these, she manages to bring forth the contrast of misery, despair, pain...and the wonderful yet simple gifts that make up our world. More than one thing at the same time...

    And the simple things, described in such a way that they shine forth out of the grueling life of the characters that inhabit this book and the small town of Carbon Hill, Alabama, are the strength of this book.

    "Leta was a great cook, good as any woman I've ever known, but the real mystery was how she knew what should fit together, what mix of foods made the right mouthful. Beans and onion. Squash and tomato. It was the different tastes together, the ones that it didn't make no sense at all to stick on the same fork, that your tongue really remembered."

    Miller does a good job in detailing very clearly the reality of life in a mine town, population 3000, in the 1930s. Life was a battle fought each and every day. As Fannie Flagg mentions in her introduction to this book - "The Moores have no safety net, no protection against the worst other than Albert Moore's good health and paycheck." I felt that throughout the book. The incredibly long hours of backbreaking work, the fear that each and every day, not only the mine but life itself might come tumbling down...but there are those gleaming moments that these characters appreciate and hoard, and that serve as the bright spots in dark times.

    "We sank into the mattress, with the weight of two bodies and all the tiredness and the work and the bills to be paid. Usually he'd squeeze my leg and I'd nuzzle his neck and we'd fall into sleep without saying a word. All the words and the moving and all the thinking were used up by dark."

    The voices of the different characters, Tess and Virgie, Jack, Albert and Leta, took a while to build in volume. I kept having to turn back to see who was talking. About midway through, I also started hearing the voices of Scout and Atticus Finch. And while I certainly see that two books written about small towns in Alabama in the 1930s would have some similar themes...this seemed a bit much.

    One very jarring note occurs when suddenly the reader is jerked forward into present day. This felt very disruptive to the flow of the book and although I understand the contrast that was being made, I wish these random journeys out of the timeline of the book hadn't been there.

    But I will finish, then, with the first line of the book. "After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time." A mystery woman throws a baby in a well. That is the start of the book - but in the end - that mystery plays a minor roll. I kept forgetting about that (which given the importance one would think an event like that would hold, felt odd) and the book would only go back to it every now and again. What starts out seeming to be a story about a shocking event in the life of a small town, ends up being about a small town world where shocking events sometimes get buried under the dirt and sweat and tears of life....more info
  • Fantastic fiction
    This book has the characters that define outstanding fiction. Gin Phillips makes us feel the people and get inside their heads like wonderful writers do. You won't be able to put this down and the characters will linger with you for weeks....more info
  • Amazing, multi-voiced debut
    The Well and the Mine is a story that starts with a mystery, but becomes more about learning that life is full of compromises in your world view. Each character is fully fledged, with their own specific voice and takes on the world, which wraps you up in each of them. Most authors have difficulty getting one voice to be so strong, and Gin Phillips is able to make five voices stand out from one another.

    This is a book that was able to sweep me away to a time and place that is not my own, make me appreciate the culture and the needs of a family so foreign to my own.

    While the ending is less than full force, I think it makes the novel that much more powerful. Sometimes life is life, sometimes you need to sit back and think, contemplate, wonder. Sometimes you need to take steps to correct the path life is on, and sometimes, you need to learn the path is just the path, and be satisfied with it....more info
  • Wish my mother could read this
    As I read this book, I wished my mother was still alive to read it. It tells the story of a young girl and her family during the Depression. Like my mother, her father is a coal miner working for $8 a week. Reminders of the things that families did to survive during that time - eating a potato for lunch, putting cardboard in your shoes to make them last longer, working 350 hours in a month to pay your child's hospital bill - can help us gain perspective on the challenges we're facing now - and perhaps how we might use them to make our families stronger. My mother told me about those times. About how her older sister quit school rather than go without shoes. About how her father was murdered over a coal mine. About making a meal out of a piece of bread and a little sugar. I know she would have connected with this little girl....more info
  • Breathtaking novel from writer with great promise
    This book will pull you in from the first page and you won't want to put it down. While it's set firmly in the Depression-era South, its characters, their relationships and the issues they face resonate across time and place. This book made me laugh and cry, and I missed the characters when it was over. I can't wait to read more from Gin Phillips. ...more info
  • Diisappointed......
    Faulkner? Steinbeck? Lovely Eudora Welty photograph on the cover .....20 glowing reviews. I was really excited to get my hands on this one.I felt like I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder ....beautiful,and oh so wise older daughter.....not so beautiful scampy younger dauhter .....Jack a boy here....he was a dog on the Prairie. Dad is a saint ....Mom poor but stoicly happy....oh,beautiful and petite as well. My stomach is roiling all over again with the saccarinity of the whole thing. Yes...there was the mysterious baby in the well ....Gin Phillips may have actually taken this plot somewhere but she chose to to go with a tired religious theme. I gave the book 2 stars because I felt the father was pretty well written.The uneven vernacular in this book was particularly annoying. All of the characters in the story are unlikable and very unrealistic . With lines like "This tastes worse than my own spit" and "her slippers making soft tunk-tunk-tunk sounds instead of the usual tonk-tonk-tonk" I think Gin and her book best "hightail" it over to the pre-teen shelves....more info
  • "How alike we were- man and dirt, black and buried underground, hardening more every day..."

    Phillips slices into the bittersweet lives of the Moore family in 1931 Carbon Hill, Alabama, a mining town suffering the effects of the Depression. Their eyes focused hopefully on Roosevelt's New Deal, townspeople help one another survive the desperation gripping the country, although racial inequity still festers beneath the surface of daily life. When a lone woman drops a small bundle into the covered well on the Moore's back porch, nine-year-old Tess is invisible to the visitor, obscured in the evening shadows. Watching the woman, a stranger, Tess is frozen in shock, unable to speak. When she tells her parents, they attribute Tess's excitement to yet another fanciful idea, but are proven wrong the next day when the body of a baby is retrieved from the well. While much neighborly curiosity ensues, after a while it is only Tess and Virgie, 14, who are unable to forget the event. Life is far too difficult to tarry long over the infant in the well.

    Because Alfred Moore owns land, his family will not go hungry; but those coming to this family's door are never sent away empty-handed. There is a strong current of community that serves this town well, the mines swallowing able men before light, spewing them back in the dark, coal-stained, to spend a few precious hours with their families. In a home built on strong values, Leta and Alfred treasure their children, the impudent and curious Tess, teen-aged Virgie, navigating her adolescence and Jack, a bit younger than Tess and all boy. This is a family nurtured on respect and hard work, the children basking in their parent's solicitude and moral direction. It is this moral sense that confounds young Tess as she grapples with an unidentified woman's motivation in tossing her child into the back porch well. Told from the various perspectives of family members, an image emerges of life in a mining community faced with the daunting challenges of the times.

    Through Alfred, the father, we learn of the racial prejudice that seethes beneath the surface in Carbon Hill, the rigid attitudes that circumscribe Alfred's efforts to connect with Jonah, a black friend and co-worker. Much as he might hope, a real friendship isn't possible, the ramifications for Alfred's children's futures too risky. The back-breaking work of the mines informs this family's daily rituals, the children lovingly tended as they sample the realities of the world they inhabit. While the question of the mother's identity is an underlying theme, so is the simplicity of these lives, the hope for better working conditions through the UMW and the solid values that make such an existence bearable. This is a vivid palette of the experiences that define former generations, stoic in their hardship, their Christian doctrines challenged by racial prejudice, poverty and one mother's desperate action. Luan Gaines/ 2008.
    ...more info


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