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The Well and the Mine

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  2,591 ratings  ·  540 reviews
Barnes Noble Discover Great New Writers

"After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time.
But I kept hearing the splash."

So begins The Well and the Mine, a magnificent debut novel set in 1930s Alabama. The place is Carbon Hill, a small coal-mining community, in the midst of the Depression. The Moore family, a loving brood of five, is better off than mos
...more
Paperback, 251 pages
Published January 21st 2008 by Hawthorne Books
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Best Unappreciated Books
92nd out of 1,394 books — 2,250 voters
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250th out of 823 books — 1,976 voters


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Community Reviews

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Jackie
This book, Phillips' debut novel, came out last year on Hawthorne Books, which has now belongs to Penguin, who will be re-releasing it sometime in the not too distant future. And well they should--this is a marvelous novel. Set in 1931 in Carbon Hill, Alabama, this book is more of a snapshot of life in a southern coal town than anything else. There is a bit of a mystery--a nine year old girl sees an unfamiliar woman throw a baby in a well on night--but it's biggest asset is the wonderful, detail ...more
Mosborne01
There's a stunning metaphor hidden in the title of this novel: the mine (being a void of ever-increasing scale) is juxtaposed with the well which renews itself constantly, despite daily depletion. It's a great image: the mine offers up smoky, pitch-black coal, the well gives cool, refreshing water. I say the metaphor is 'hidden' because Phillips does almost nothing with this contrast. It's there, and it's set up, but it doesn't go anywhere. A bit like the Depression that surrounds this tale.

If T
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Amalie
For a debut novel this is wonderful! Better than I expected. Really, I'm not much familiar with American literature from this era, so this was another new experience (other than Mockingbird|2657] and The Sound and the Fury.

She writes about poverty, racism, prejudice, and family life in the 1930s , I liked the reality of it better than Harper Lee's which seems near to perfection. Phillips understands and shows just like the well and mining; people/characters too will continue to discover and not
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Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!!!

Oh, I do recommend this book. The last line was so perfect! I recommend it because the book whispers in a low, quiet unobtrusive manner and yet it leaves an important message. The book is about an upright, hard working miner's family of the 1930s living in Alabama. It is about a place, a time period and about determining your own personal guidelines. It is about living in the South during the Depression and it deals with racial inequalities too. First I thought it was primarily c
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Heidi Pikula
This book is Phillips' debut novel, and it is MARVELOUS!!!

Set in 1931 in Carbon Hill, Alabama, this book is more of a snapshot of life in a southern coal town than anything else.

She begins with a touch of mystery - nine year old Tess sees an unfamiliar woman throw a baby in the family well one night - and this mystery follows through the whole book, as the wonderful, detailed and delightful characters unfold; I was captivated from the very first page!

The Well and the Mine centers on a family:
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☕Laura
This story, set in a mining town in depression-era Alabama, is at once the story of a family and of a community, and of a mystery which touches them all. When a baby is put down their family's well by a mysterious woman in the night, 9 year old Tess and 14 year old Virgie set out to make sense of this event which has rocked the comfortable world they've come to know. Along the way come lessons about social class, race, respect for others, growing up and finding one's place in the world. The stor ...more
Cristina
Vi sarà capitato no? Quando inizi un libro e non ingrana, vai avanti pensando che prima o poi "romperai il ghiaccio", ma uff...non succede. Allora leggi una pagina, guardi quante ne rimangono...oh no ancora 120!!! pensi...e sbuffi, e ti chiedi: lo mollo??? Non lo mollo, ufffff...
SillySuzy
Nice story, but nothing more than that. Told from different perspectives, which is a good thing, but often there is no real connection between the different parts, there is no flow. What's more, the story lacks tension. It is as if the author realizes from time to time: what were we talking about again? Oh yes, the well woman, let's say something about her. The plot is pretty lame and the story peters out. The protagonists themselves are very nice, very politically correct, not to say nauseating ...more
Lara
Apr 08, 2009 Lara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lara by: Alice Jackson
Gin Phillips won a Barnes & Noble "Discover New Writers" award of some sort for it, so I'm not the only one who loved it. Gin also went to Birmingham-Southern College with one of my three friends named Alice, and Alice was kind enough to send me the book in the hopes that I would agree with her about its awesomeness. Alice has fantastic taste, so I wasn't worried.

Anyway, the book is set in rural Alabama in the 1930's and it opens with 9-year-old Tess witnessing someone dumping what appears t
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Lisa
Not a book I ordinarily would pick up on my own; this was my April book club selection. The Well and the Mine was a work of Southern literature, based around a family living in a coal mining town. The book opened with a little girl witnessing someone dropping her baby down their well. This act immediately hooked me and made me want to find out who this mystery woman was and why she did it.

The narrative alternated between the perspectives of each of the five family members. The well incident spar
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Mica Humes
The Well and the Mine is a beautiful work of Historical fiction that follows a lovable Southern family in the 1930’s. The writing style is one of the most interesting I have read recently; first person by each of the five main characters. Many meaty topics are explored (racial tension, poverty, humanity) while still managing to feel like sitting on the porch late into the night with a best friend. It starts out with a mystery and then turns into so much more. By the end of the book it almost isn ...more
Natalie
I first read Gin Phillips' second book, "Come In and Cover Me," and I wasn't thrilled. However, I suspected it was a lackluster second book--as is often the case--and I was right! Her debut novel, "The Well and the Mine," was a lovely read. What I enjoyed so much about this one was that it touches upon so many social ills and controversies--racism and segregation, industrialization, environmentalism, feminism and the evolution of the concept of working mom/homemaker, poverty, even workplace safe ...more
Meaghan
From the cover blurb I expected this to be a mystery book, a slim but dark thriller with all sorts of scary small-town secrets coming out. I was mistaken. This is instead a portrait of a small mining town and a family in that town going through the Depression and getting by as best they can. It's slow-moving but often sweet, like honey. Sweet as it is, though, I would not call it sentimental: the troubles the characters face are serious and very real.

Each member of the Moore family gets a turn t
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Teresa
"AFTER SHE THREW THE BABY IN, NOBODY BELIEVED ME for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash".

What a fabulous opening to this debut novel! Nine year old Tess Moore and her older sister Virgie strive to discover the identity of the strange woman who threw a baby into their well in 1931. However, the more important story which comes to the fore is how the community of Carbon Hill, Alabama cope with the hardships which accompany the Depression.

The story is told from multiple points of vi
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Michelle
My friend Carol Ann used the perfect word to describe this book: gentle. Phillips follows the Moore family in 1930s Alabama. Populated with honest, well-meaning people who display kindness and authenticity, The Well and the Mine shows so clearly the importance of relativity. The Moore family seems to have very little until Phillips contrasts them to other mining families in their small town. But a near-tragic event shows how little they have to take care of their own. Organized around a mystery ...more
Becky
Most likely one of the best written books I have read in a while. Interesting perspective from the characters. The book takes place during the depression era. 1931 in a coal mining town in the South.

Has a little mystery in it but not much. So, if you are not a fan of mystery novels please don't igore this book because of that small feature.

Interesting to read about daily lifes, traumas, hard work, education and general life that took place during that era. It makes me wonder if 60 years from now
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Nancy Thomas
This book was easy to read as it had a nice flow between characters. You got to know each of them without feeling jerked back and forth between them - the author did a good job of finishing thoughts for a character before she moved to another.
The book made me sad in some ways - the poverty that folks lived through in those days gives a whole different perspective to "poor" though I still know many people who don't have much, it's different that in those times.
The other, more uncomfortable aspec
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Lois
This book had a profound effect on me. Set in a coal mining town in Alabama in 1931, the book centers around the mysterious woman who drops a child into the well of the Moore family. Each section is narrated by individual characters, giving their thoughts and impressions on the mystery and many other aspects of their lives. The character who has the most impact on me was the father, Albert. His thoughts and perceptions on the mysterious woman, his wife, his children and his friendship that threa ...more
Debra
Well written, and easy to read. It reminded me of Rick Bragg in the topics of the poor in that part of Alabama. She did do her research well, but it did not have the "I lived it" quality of Rick Bragg. She tells the story from the point of view of all the family members, and goes back and forth in time. I like books that use different characters to tell the story, as in The Poisonwood Bible, but the addition of the change in timeframes threw it off a bit for me. All that being said, I found the ...more
Gloria
It seems to be a strange story at 1st. But becomes an intriguing story of how some people are forced to live.
"After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time.
But I kept hearing the splash."

So begins The Well and the Mine, a magnificent debut novel set in 1930s Alabama. The place is Carbon Hill, a small coal-mining community, in the midst of the Depression. The Moore family, a loving brood of five, is better off than most, generous to their less fortunate neighbors. But dark
...more
Terri White
This book is about a family in Alabama during the depression. The story begins with a baby being dropped into the family well. Although that really isn't the main theme of the story, it is interwoven through the narrative. This is a book about a family struggling to survive in hard times. It is about compassion for your fellow man. It is about the doubts of a young girl who wonders whether there is something else in her future besides being a wife and mother. Also, race relations, and labor stru ...more
Sarah Beth
Set in 1930s Alabama, this story is told from the perspectives of the Moore family: father and coal miner Albert, mother Leta, daughters Virgie and Tess, and son Jack. In alternating voices, the family details their life during the Depression, and their experience after a baby was thrown into their well. In particular, nine-year-old Tess is bothered by the baby's death and her subsequent realizations of the darker side of life, one filled with hardship and death that her parents have largely shi ...more
Plum-crazy
An atmospheric & evocative tale that portrays the lives of a family in a small coal mining town in 1930s Alabama. The tale is based around an event witnessed by nine year old Tess - while on her back porch one night she sees an unknown woman throw a baby into their well.
Through Tess's eyes we find out how the act affects her & the local community. To add another dimension to the story we hear from the rest of her family, father Albert, mother Leta (what a hard life being a "housewife" i
...more
Melinda
This novel is set in 1931 Alabama. The story opens as Tess, relaxing on the porch, witnesses a woman drop a baby into the family's well. All five family members alternate in relating their take on events. This allows the reader to get inside the head of each character. Despite the shocking theme, this book is really about compassion, human decency and a family that really cares about each other. I loved this book!
Dianah
Set in depression-era, small-town Alabama, this novel opens with a baby being tossed into a well. But, this poignant slice-of-life is really about poverty, racial tensions, labor conditions, and the ties of family. Don't let the gruesome beginning -- it has a real purpose -- stop you from savoring this compelling, beautifully written book.
Sarah
My rating is 3 to 4 stars. An enjoyable read - something quick and easy. This novel embraces the history of the deep south, in particular the coal and steel areas of Alabama during the depression. The author does a fantastic job of bringing to life the story of a close-knit family whose life centers around the mundane affairs of living. Although we so often paint this era with a soft glow, it had both positive and negative ramifications for every man, woman and child, race or religion. Underneat ...more
Rosie


It was an interesting story told by each member of the Moore family. The Moores lived in Alabama where the father worked in a coal mine during the 1930's. The story tells of their struggles and those of others in their community. A mystery unfolds that impacts each member of the family.
Kelley
Beautiful book - really more like 4.5 stars. It was written so well. I loved the many voices telling their perspectives and thought it was particularly creative to have the youngest brother tell his story from his adulthood looking back. I loved each of the main characters so much, as well as a couple side characters. It felt like "To Kill A Mockingbird" to me. The only reason I didn't give it a full 5 stars is that the whole premise of the baby in the well and the mother's mental state weighed ...more
Sharon Helfrich
The 1930's Depression era setting and great character development make this book a must read. The strength of the main family, along with the other townspeople, truly bring this era to life.
Sarah Schantz
The prose in this book is both sweet and beautiful but for some reason I expected more of a lesson from the story than I came away with in the end. Maybe I expected more because it took place in the South and had a few kids narrating and I was reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird? Maybe I expected more because it's set in a mining town, a place always ripe for politics? Or maybe I thought the issues regarding gender and race that Gin Phillips touched upon would eventually go deeper? This novel is a ...more
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Gin Phillips is a freelance writer whose features have appeared in American Profile, American Spirit, Platinum, and Womans World. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama; The Well and the Mine is her first novel. The book has been featured or will be featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, the LA Times, Poets & Writers, and Publshers Weekly. For more information about the book, please visit www.hawthorneb ...more
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“…there was a pattern to how things were done, rules we followed. Not following meant not knowing what might happen.” 2 likes
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