The Well and the Mine

The Well and the Mine - Gin Phillips 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 concerned with a child's point of view, but it isn't just that. The adults' views come across beautifully too. One family with a common high moral standard, but each individual perspective is quietly but clearly expressed.

A woman throws her baby down a well. That is the most obvious theme of the book. Who did this? Why did she do this? And how does each individual react to this? No one is left untouched.

What drew me to this novel from the very start was the author's turn of words, her ability to size up a character and in a given expression let the reader know who that person was. Here you see Tess and her sister Virgie. They are very clearly different types:

"And we ain't seen your new baby yet," said Tess. "But I heard he's precious." She grinned when she said it, dimples showing, tilting her head a little in that way that made her curls shake. I'd said I would do the talking, but I couldn't do what Tess did. She could turn on charm like pulling the light switch, the right words coming out so bright and easy. Adults were always patting her head, laughing at her, whispering to Papa and Mama how clever she was, what a cute little thing. And it wasn't like she even had to pull the string – it just happened. (37%)

But neither are the characters simple. Just as with real people they are multifaceted. I enjoy the prose style, and I enjoy meeting the people in this wonderful family. First you think all is so idyllic, but wait.

Here follows Tess' own views on the Baptists;

This particular Baptist preacher I didn't care for too much. He was too bony for one thing, with cheekbones that looked like you could slice yourself on them. And he sounded angry, shouting every word. I thought that might have been because he hadn't gotten enough to eat. But his bad mood caught hold of his sermon; he preached about how this earth wasn't our true home and we were only here for a brief time before we passed along to our true home. He talked about not being tied to money or earthly things and how we should shun this world and love the other. I wondered if he was right. I never liked sermons about this world being just a train stop. It had always seemed like a pretty nice place to me, with magnolias and chocolate cake and baby chicks. But it could be that I'd missed something important, that really the earth was a place full of harshness and danger as the preacher said. That the Well Woman was only the beginning of me seeing what was important. (52%)

Ever since that baby died, pieces didn't fit together as well as they used to. Some things were convoluted before, of course. Papa was the strongest man in the world, so of course nothing hurt him, but he was cracked all over from the mines. God was good, but he might decide to send you to hell. Getting baptized in the river cleaned your soul; but I still had to take a bath on Saturday nights even if I'd just been swimming. ….. (60%)

This is a gentle book which speaks of a harsh time. The whispered message
is beautiful in its simplicity..

So, if I recommend reading the book, why do I give it three stars? First of all because three stars means I did like the book. Secondly, perhaps it was a bit too sweet for my preferences. That is not a criticism of the book, but it affects my rating.

I would like to read Storming Heaven soon. The two could well be read together.