Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Well and the Mine
Things are still busy, busy at Chez Books and Cooks. Today is the only day I haven't had to be someplace in the morning, someplace in the evening, and places to go in between. I'm an introvert and a homebody so this is not my favorite way of living. It's fun to see people and do things, but I need down time. Whew.
A week or two ago I was trying to figure out what to read next. Nothing was quite clicking so when my Librarything Early Reviewer book arrived in the mail I began reading it almost immediately. The Well and the Mine was just what I was looking for at that moment. 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.