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The Well and the Mine

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,423 ratings  ·  641 reviews
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"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 mo
Paperback, 251 pages
Published January 21st 2008 by Hawthorne Books
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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
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It's quiet in its messages, this family is wonderful to get to know. The last line is perfect and sums up all the themes in this book.
This is a story of a warm, close, hard-working mining family in the 1930s in Southern USA. Times are tough but they hold together as a family and as a part of their community. Throughout, the story is told from all 5 viewpoints; each family member has a turn to tell part of the story. You'd think that this might lead to a jumpy, uneven
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
If that opening line doesn't get you... "After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash."
The Well and the Mine tells the story of the Moore family in 1930s Alabama. The community survives because of the nearby mine which employs many of the men, including Albert Moore. While the story begins with the baby in the well at the Moore homestead, which was witnessed by 9-year-old Tess, there is so much more to this story than that alone. At times,
Mark Osborne
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Heidi Pikula
Jul 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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:
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book; surprisingly a debut novel. The book takes place in a mining town in Alabama in 1931, and the sense of place is almost a character itself. The story opens with a distressing event, and the mystery surrounding the event carries through the book, but really it is a story about a family, a place, a time, and a way of living. There are multiple narrators, each well developed characters, each giving the reader a different perspective on this hard life.

The descriptions of th
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I have several novels lined up that take place in the southern US states. This filled my Alabama slot. It came on the heels of Faulkner and Mississippi - decidedly different! And, at first, I was unhappy about that difference. But I decided one should probably not have a steady diet of Faulkner. Life needs both its good and its not so good to appreciate either.

After I settled in to this, it was good enough. There is nothing great about the writing - but nothing terrible either. There are five ch
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
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
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
Nov 07, 2014 rated it liked it
A much more exhausting, real-life version of The Waltons and truer version of a family from "A Coal Miner's Daughter" lyrics. I was tired just reading this book. Phillips certainly goes into the back-breaking descriptions of picking cotton, working in the coal mine and the steps in washing a family's clothes when water has to be drawn from a well. Forget the internet about changing lives--for a mother in the '30s it had to be the purchase of a wringer washer. (The only "wait a minute, that's not ...more
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 to be
Debbie Floyd
Apr 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-given-away
This is a gem of a book, about a hardworking family who lives in Alabama in the 1930's. The writing is so descriptive you can almost, feel, smell and taste all that the family experiences in their day to day existence. The voices of each of the family members are heard as they each talk about their lives and how they each deal with the day to day experiences. The coal miners, the tenant farmers, the business owners you get a feeling of life in a rural town in the South spanning the Depression. T ...more
Mica Humes
Jun 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 perspective of all the members of the Moore family. In each story the reader gets an
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, especially my daughter and possibly my oldest granddaughter-age 14
This one goes into my favorites - to be a favorite it has to be one that I would reread again and that is certainly true of this novel.
Part of the reason, it was so good for me was the interaction between the three children, especially the girls! They way she wrote them was so real that they could have been my grandchildren - in fact I pictured my three as I read about them. Just great!!!!
The book reminded me in some respects of "Peace Like a River" - also one of my favorites. Particularly the f
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A debut novel and a very satisfying read.

The story starts with Tess, the youngest girl in the family witnessing a terrible thing. A woman throws a tiny baby into the well in her family's yard. Although the story centres around this mystery - who did it and why the novel is really not plot driven. It is a story of a small American town in the depression - a town that depends upon the coal-mine to keep it going.

Completely character driven, this is a wonderful little book and reminded me of time of
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, alabama
I loved this book.

I loved the tenderness between the characters themselves and the tenderness with which the author wrote about them.

I loved the five distinct voices of the members of the Moore family, whose alternating narrations unwind the story frontwards, backwards, and inwards.

I loved the "wisp of suspense," as one reviewer put it; but I also loved that the mystery was embedded in the character development, not the other way around.

I loved the reality of it. Even the best of folks trying to
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Cassidy Quimby
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Having lived in Alabama for a couple of years now and so many of the people I meet having connection with the coal mines near Birmingham I decided to give this book a go. It took me a little bit to warm up to the story being told from an entire family's perspective in small snippets but eventually I decided this is what was so endearing to the book. Now that I've finished I'm missing their perspectives and sad it's over. This book paints a good picture of what life might have been like here back ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2010
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! ...more
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips 1 2 Dec 30, 2012 05:15PM  

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Gin Phillips is the celebrated author of The Well and the Mine (winner of the 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction) and Come in and Cover Me (“original and strikingly beautiful” – Elle Magazine). She has also published two middle-grade novels. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family.

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