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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 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)
A tight-knit miner's family struggles against poverty and racism in Phillips's evocative first novel, set in Depression-era Alabama. Throughout, she moves skillfully between the points of view of miner father Albert, hard-working mother Leta, young daughter Tess and teenage daughter Virgie, and small son Jack. They see men who are frequently incapacitated or killed by accidents in the local mines; neighbors live off what they can grow on their patch of land; and blacks like Albert's fellow miner and friend Jonah are segregated in another part of Carbon Hill-and often hauled off to jail arbitrarily. When Tess witnesses a woman throwing a baby into their well, no one believes her until the dead child is found, and few are shocked. Tess, hounded by nightmares, and Virgie, on the cusp of womanhood and resistant to the thought of an early marriage to the local boys who court her, begin making inquiries of their own, visiting wives who've recently had babies and learning way more than they imagined. With a wisp of suspense, Phillips fully enters the lives of her honorable characters and brings them vibrantly to the page. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information