In 1931 Carbon Hill, a small Alabama coal-mining town, nine-year-old Tess Moore watches from the darkness of her back porch as an unknown woman lifts the cover off the family well and tosses a baby in without a word.
It is the height of the Depression, and the Moores are better off than most. Along with most of the men in Carbon Hill, Albert Moore labors in the mines, but he also owns a small patch of farmland which allows him to feed his wife, Leta, and his children during the lean times. The family is also known for being quick to help out with a bit of food or a loan, which makes the choice of their well even more puzzling.
The town is stopped in its tracks by the crime, but it’s Tess who feels the tragedy the most. She becomes plagued by nightmares and feels certain that the dead infant boy is reaching out to her. So her fourteen-year-old sister, Virgie, comes up with a plan to track down the Well Woman. The two make a list of all the women they know who delivered babies in the last six months and begin insinuating themselves into their suspects’ lives. Their investigation doesn’t yield an immediate answer, but it opens the sisters’ eyes to the complications of life beyond their own household.
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. The Well and the Mine is a stunning novel about love, hope and the importance of doing the right thing.