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.


Eva said...

I love Southern lit! Especially with the Southern Challenge right now; great review Tara. :D (hehehe: my verification word is 'pechie' which is almost 'peachie' which seems very Southern to me. Going to stop rambling now.)

melanie said...

i just got this one - yay it's good! i probably won't start until next week..

Carrie K said...

Did the baby survive?

Anonymous said...

i also love books set in the south...there's just something about them. this novel sounds promising--especially considering it's a debut novel. i'll have to see if i can track it down. thanks for the review and tip.

ps. thanks for clearing up the whole 'rice brat' thing! i was scratching my head on that for sure.

J.L. Danger said...

ohhh this sounds really good!

Ti said...

This one's been on my list ever since I saw it at B&N's Discover New Writer's shelf. I've been waiting for someone to review it so thanks!

JoAnn said...

Sounds like a great debut novel...and perfect for the Southern Reading Challenge, too! Thanks for the review.

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds amazing. I'd like to read it for its setting alone.

Gentle Reader said...

This sounds really atmospheric--I love that sort of thing! Also, I know how you feel as a homebody with too many obligations elsewhere--it's exhausting, right?

Danielle said...

For some weird reason I'm not really good with books set in the south. This one does sound good, though. I've decided to take a break from LT's Early Reviewers program. I've gotten behind and have mentioned feeling totally overwhelmed lately. They've had some good choices lately, haven' they!

Tara said...

Eva, you know, I've never been a huge fan of it- but this was fantastic! I should read more of it, for sure.

melanie, I hope you like it!

Carrie K, no.


booklineandsinker, you gave a good belly laugh with your question. Thank YOU!

J.Danger, I really liked this one.

Ti, really! Glad to be of service. (wink!)

JoAnn, it would be great for that challenge!

bermudaonion, the setting was fantastic.

Gentle Reader, Yes - it is exhausting! You hit the nail on the head.

Danielle, I'm generally not either, but this appealed to me for whatever reason. I don't blame you for taking a break. My stack of ARCs and such has gotten out of control.

Anonymous said...

I have this book but have yet to read it.

If you like southern lit I recommend Hillary Jordan's 'Mudbound,' set in Mississippi. It's wonderful, very high literary quality, riveting story, etc. I loved it.

Tara said...

Bluestalking, I hope you like this one. I will check out Mudbound - thanks for the suggestion!

Tara said...

Rose City Reader, I'm glad you liked this! You are certainly welcome to link to me, but it is not necessary.