Friday, September 4, 2009

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Pages: 287
Genre: Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Series: No
Publication Year: 2009

Synopsis (From Book Cover):
In a small Alabama coal-mining town during the summer of 1931, nine-year-old Tess Moore sits on her back porch and watches a woman toss a baby into her family's well without a word. This shocking act of violence sets in motion a chain of events that forces Tess and her older sister, Virgie, to look beyond their own door and learn the value of kindness and lending a helping hand. As Tess and Virgie try to solve the mystery of the well, an accident puts their seven-year-old brother's life in danger, revealing just what sorts of sacrifices their parents, Albert and Leta, have made in order to give their children a better life, and the power of love and compassion to provide comfort of those we love.

The Well and the Mine was a surprising read. The synopsis of the story doesn't do it justice. This is more than the story of Tess and Virgie trying to solve the mystery of the dead baby. It is about the town that they live in, the people that lived there (both black and white), the era they lived in, and the way they survived.

One of the best things about The Well and the Mine is that it is from the first person prespective of all the members of the Moore family. In each story the reader gets an view into all five members point of view. Normally this style of writing can be pretty trickly to do but Phillips made it easy to adjust to the shifting character perspectives by labeling the change. Also, when switching from perspective to perspective the themes and timeline stayed the same. The youngest member of the family, Jack, set up the beginning of each chapter by reflecting on his childhood. By presenting each members view point readers got to see not only how the events at the mine affected them at the time but also how they changed their future.

The characters were very well developed. They were all likeable and relateable. Some of the characters were reminiscent of characters in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Tess comes of as a lot like Scout, a tomboy that is just enjoying her life until something happens that shakes her would. Albert is a little like Atticus but less scholarly. All of Albert's veiw point were based more of experince. His views on race and how his children were suppose to be raised were passed on personal experince and his beliefs about good or bad. It was interesting how the incident at the well and made him question his own actions and short comings.
"Me and Virgie and Jack were supposed to be the kind of people who helped out. But we didn't give those Talbert children nothing. That pained me, not just from the guilt, but because it took something so simple and confused it. I hated that, even though I wasn't supposed to hate." - Tess
One of the most interesting things about the story (personally) was the treatment of race issues in 1931. The children (Tess, Virgie, and Jack) never really deal with race, there is one incident with Jack. Albert is the one that deals with race the most and it is this experince that makes his sections so compelling to read.
"One year we had a group of real Negroes come and perform for the grammar school near Christmastime, and they weren't nearly so funny. They didn't seem to know at all how colored folks were supposed to act" - Virgie
Pros: Writing, Characters, Plot, Style
Cons: None

Overall Recommendation:

A very enjoyable story. I would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird.

Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award (2009)

Other Reviews:

1 comment:

  1. I recently completed The Well and The Mine and thoroughly enjoyed it -- I was literally transported back to Depression-era Alabama, loved the characters the depiction of their problems (social, economics ('the FDR New Deal helped a lot), their plagues (typhoid), etc). The voices seemed authentic and her description of the coal/mining environment was superb, I thought -- everything came together nicely. Your review is great! Thanks for sharing!