Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

I’ve heard about Gin Phillips’ The Well and the Mine here and there over the past year, but was really exposed to it when she won the Alabama Library Association Award for Fiction this year at the conference in Auburn. She is a great speaker and this in addition to the stories she shared with us about the book made me stand in line to get a copy of my very own autographed.

In Phillip’s tale, Carbon Hill, Alabama during the Depression was a somewhat dingy place. Worse off than some, better off than others. Tess’s family is doing fairly well. They don’t have meat to eat except a couple of times a year, but there is always food. The patriarch of the family, Albert, has a good, solid job in the mines and works his way up to a supervisory capacity. Her sister Virgie is smart, pretty, and being courted by a son of one of the richest families in town. Her brother Jack is healthy, strong, and smart as a whip. Tess loves her life, and the part she loves the most is the quiet of the back porch overlooking the woods. There is a well on the back porch and she believes it is her well. Life giving water and dim coolness make it one of her favorite things on earth. This changes one summer night when, in the darkness of night, an vaguely seen figure approaches their well, opens the lid, and drops a baby in. Tess remains unseen in the deep shadows of the porch and it’s over before she can say anything. She does tell her sister and her mother but they believe it is just Tess’s imagination until her mother brings up a baby blanket with morning’s water. So begins a momentous summer for Tess and her siblings full of mystery, heartbreak, and the beginning of the end of childhood.

This book does have its somber moments but overall I found it be charming and quite reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. Another great summer read!

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