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By GIN PHILLIPS
Published by Little, Brown in PB on 1 November 2009 / RRP $34.99
A deeply affecting and emotionally uplifting story set in Depression-era Alabama about the value of community, charity, family and hope. The Well and the Mine is an extraordinary debut novel – and one that nearly didn’t see the light of day.
Gin Phillips, a young woman living in Alabama, finished The Well and the Mine in 2004. It was turned down by several houses, and was finally published more than three years later by the small, independent Hawthorne Press, based in Oregon, who brought it out in March 2008. A year later, The Well and the Mine won the Barnes & Nobel Discover Award – previous winners include We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, Brick Lane by Monica Ali and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. In the words of one of the judges: ‘The Well and the Mine is an enthralling book . . . Gin Phillips is truly a great American writer.’
In 1931 nine-year-old Tess Moore watches from the darkness of her back porch as a strange woman lifts the cover off the family well and tosses a baby in without a word. It is the height of the Depression; while Tess's father, Albert, performs backbreaking and dangerous work at the mine, her mother, Leta, makes do without meat on her table. But the family are luckier than most; the food they can grow on their plot of land has so far saved them from the crippling poverty and near-starvation that besets their neighbours. As Tess tries to unravel the mystery of the woman at the well, a portrait emerges of a family and a community struggling to survive the darkest of times. Resonant, vivid and clear-eyed in its portrayal of both the best and the worst of human nature, The Well and the Mine is a stunning novel about love, hope and the importance of doing the right thing.
'The Well and the Mine doesn't just give you characters who'll stay with you - it gives you a whole world.' - Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes.