"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 darkness arrives at their doorstep when a mysterious woman throws a baby down the Moores' well, and the story slowly unfolds, through the alternating voices of nine-year-old Tess (who witnessed the crime); her older sister, Virgie; her brother, Jack; and her parents, Albert and Leta.
The mystery of the baby and why the Moores' well was the chosen location for its disposal is the catalyst of this intimate novel -- the splash whose ripples widen to reveal a community divided by race and class. The revelation of this shadowy side of life in Carbon Hill is leavened by the awakening conscience of a family that survives adversity with pluck and determination. In her first novel, Phillips has found beauty, depth, and the promise of salvation in one strong Southern clan. (Summer 2008 Selection)