Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One of the Best Books I've Read All Year!!!

The Well and The Mine
By Gin Phillips
Riverhead Trade; $15

There is just something about Alabama. Time is a little slower there, the air is a little sweeter and it’s just a unique place to be, and capturing its essence would be like trapping a firefly in jar on an early summer’s evening. In her debut novel, “The Well and The Mine,” author Gin Phillips captures that bit of Alabama magic and transforms it into a fascinating story.

Albert and Leta Moore are raising their family the best way they know how in 1930’s rural Northern Alabama. When 9-year old Tess witnesses a mysterious woman walk up onto their back porch and drop a baby into the family’s well, at first no one in the family believes her. But when the tiny body is found in the well, the tragedy causes the entire family to stop and think about how their world is changing around them.

Tess and her older sister, Virgie, are determined to find out who the mystery woman was who invaded their safe family life. They make a list of all the women in town who have had babies recently, and as they check on each family they discover that many of their neighbors are barely managing to stay alive with little money, food or heat.

Meanwhile, their father struggles to make a decent living in the coal mines, where segregation is unheard of and the mine bosses make life both inside the mine and out a living hell. Bringing home an average of twelve dollars a week for back-breaking labor, Albert is better off than most of the other miners, as he owns his own land, his own home, his own car. His wife, Leta, cares for the home and the animals, often sacrificing parts of her own meals so that her children have enough. But the family is happy, sharing what they have with their neighbors, and holding on to their faith, until an accident involving their youngest child, Jack, threatens to bring the family to its knees.

Gin Phillips has done a magnificent job of portraying the culture and traditions of the Southern way of life in this captivating book. You can almost taste the hand-churned butter melting off homemade biscuits with just a dab of pear preserves for sweetening. My favorite passage in the book describes Leta’s rose garden and how lovingly she tended the bit of beauty in her life, a legacy from her long-dead mother.

But Phillips doesn’t put a shiny coat on the story. She tells about the black dust from the coal mines that would never come off your skin no matter how hard you scrub and how picking the cotton would make your fingers bled. She depicts how hard life was during the Depression for those living in the rural South without making it sound whiney or crass. It was just a fact – people worked hard back then.

“The Well and The Mine” is hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read this year. Take a trip to the South through Gin Phillip’s words. You’ll be longing for cornbread, peas and sliced tomatoes before you know it!


bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

We haven't been able to get a hold of you for BBAW! Please email mypalamyATgmailDOTcom for information about YOUR Book Blogger Appreciation Week nominee.

bookjourney said...

Sharon this looks great! I love the cover and your review! This is a must add to my list!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great review, Sharon! This sounds like one I need to pick up. Life in AL back then would definitely have been rough. And the book sounds like it's a mystery? Very interesting!