Monday, December 20, 2010

The Well and the Mine

Late one night, imaginative Tess Moore watches a woman throw a baby into her family's well. As she rushes to report the incident to her family, no one believes her unto the corpse is found a few days later. The incident triggers others as Tess and her older sister Virgie set out to find out which of their neighbors was responsible for the deed.

Set in Carbon Hill, Alabama, in 1931, author Gin Phillips' first novel relays the narrative through the five points of view of the Moore family: nine-year old Tess, fourteen-year old Virgie, six-year old Jack, mother Leta, and father Albert.

Incorporated into the mystery is the economic and social reality of the time -- racism and poverty underlie the decisions made by many of the characters in the novel, including the Moore family who struggle at times to do what is right.

For the modern reader, the details of what it meant to live during the Great Depression come alive --- eating a half a potato for lunch, rarely having meat for a meal, using cardboard in the bottom of shoes, wearing flour sacks for clothing, or the reality of making eight dollars a week to support a family of five. Perhaps the best details come from the reality of mining -- the physical, emotional, and economical toil of working at a time when there was no such thing as health insurance, disability, or help for the dependent members of the families of miners who were killed or maimed.

In her fictional debut, Phillips acknowledges with respect the era that her grandparents worked, prayed, and pushed through in order to pave the way for a better life for the generations that would follow.


1 comment:

  1. This looks like a great read. Reminds me of Rick Bragg's stuff, depression era, Alabama. Love it. Thanks. Merry Christmas to my favorite blogger and her handsome husband.