The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips - Book Review

The Well and the Mine is the story of an Alabama depression-era family told in five alternating voices. Father Albert is a hard working miner and his wife Leta is a practical mother who puts the interest of her children above all else. The story begins as youngest daughter, Tess, observes someone throwing a baby into the family well. Teen daughter Virgie soon joins Tess is trying to find out who that woman might be, while the youngest child, Jack, goes about the business of being a young boy.

Though The Well and the Mine opens with a mystery that appears to launch the plot, it’s actually the strong sense of time and place that motivates the story. The mine is a dangerous place, people are starving, racial tensions are high and women are just beginning to see a future different than their mama’s. This is a time when playing outside all day was the norm, when neighbors helped neighbors, before our throw-away culture and the sort of town – with all its hardships - that puts a nostalgic yearning in our souls.

All this praise being laid, I must warn that The Well and the Mine is a slow tale. It’s like a piece of hard candy, never really having a tootsie-pop center, yet leaving you at the end with a lingering taste. Publisher's Weekly may have noticed a “wisp of suspense,” but it’s a small wisp. I grew tired several times and had to put the book down. I didn’t quite get Tess's odd attachment to the well nor feel the dramatic pull the beginning of the story led one to anticipate.

For readers who enjoy slow southern tales of atmospheric family life or readers who enjoy stories in multiple voices, The Well and the Mine is a well-written addition to the genre. After all, it did win the 2008 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award.

Here's the link to a discussion guide at Penguin.

Buy The Well and the Mine Here

Thanks to Library Thing for my copy.

Author Gin Phillips is a freelance writer who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. The Well and the Mine is her first novel, but she's also working on a young adult fantasy and a mystery set in rural New Mexico. I couldn't find an author page, but there's a wiki with more info here.

© 2009

Bookmark and Share


Rose City Reader said...

I just finished this book. I thought it was great. Here is my review on Rose City Reader.

If you would like me to add a link to your review, please leave a comment on my review post and I will add it.


Blog Archive