The Well and the Mine by Gin PhillipsTess is only nine the moonless night she watches a stranger step upon their back porch and drop a baby into the covered well. At first no one believes Tess. A fanciful child, her imagination is readily engaged. As family and neighbors buzz about this bizarre occurrence, Tess begins a new phase of her young life, pondering improbables, questioning things she has always taken for granted. At fourteen, the beautiful Virgie is far less frivolous, facing the challenges of boys and high school, but frequently the girls put their heads together, making lists of possible mothers. The baby becomes a theme throughout these months, although events conspire to change their priorities. Yet Tess never forgets or stops looking for answers.
The Well and the Mine
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This gentle debut novel set in Depression-era Alabama kicks off with a startling opening scene., Most local families have had too many mouths to feed for as long as they can remember, but when an unknown woman drops a baby into the Moore family well—with only nine-year-old Tess as a witness—the town is stopped in its tracks by the crime.
I n Alabama, little Tess has her quiet place, curled on the porch in the evening shadows with the family's creek-fed well keeping her company. But one night a woman appears, throws a swaddled — but living — infant into the water and then disappears. These are the opening scenes of Gin Phillips's novel. But in some ways, the baby-in-well business is misleading, because it goes on to command relatively little dramatic tension in the book, despite preoccupying Tess's thoughts. Instead, the old Southern tensions run throughout, as deep as the coal seams that Tess's tired, loving father works to keep the family alive. Though they work side by side down the mines, his black colleague Jonah won't come in for supper for fear of reprisals; the breathtaking poverty of their neighbours is nothing compared to the broken shacks of "Niggertown".