Taylor, Mildred D. 1995. The Well.
Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-8037-1802-0.
A prequel to Taylor’s
well-known Logan family saga, The Well is set in rural Mississipi in the
early 1900’s when David Logan is ten. The weather has been hot and dry for a long period, and well water is scarce. The
Logans still have sweet well water that they kindly share with both Black and
White neighbors. Young Charlie Simms, one of the meanest Whites around, resents that the African-American Logans have plentiful
land and water, and he makes life hard for David and his older, volatile brother, Hammer. After Charlie strikes David, Hammer
retaliates, and the Logan boys and family end up in serious trouble. To stay out
of jail, Hammer and David labor on the Simms farm for an entire summer. However, once his father leaves town, Hammer beats
up Charlie again. Charlie gets even through a cold, calculated act that hurts
the Logan family and the entire community.
The Well is a fast-paced,
dramatic, well-written novella with believable characters and a realistic plot. Readers
get a feeling for early 20th century southern racism and for the careful, restricted lives Blacks lead to avoid
trouble from their White neighbors. Readers also glimpse the Logan family’s
love, support, and wisdom that help shield family members from racism’s ugliness.
provides colorful cultural details through language/dialect, family, community, forms of address, food, references to
slavery, and religion. She does not address music, clothes, or physical appearance. An example of the Logans' Black southern
dialect is when Mama says, "Y'all get y'alls water and y'all go on!" (38). The Logans' extended family is close, and the Logans
freely share their well water with neighbors. Mama makes molasses bread to gain the sheriff's sympathy; she addresses the
White sheriff in the manner expected of Blacks. Ma Rachel tells sad tales about her slavery days. Papa, Hammer, and David
attend a pretend church service to spare a young man's feelings; one can tell they are familiar with the prayers and music.
Because the "n" word is used
many times in The Well, it was taken off my school's reading list when a parent complained. While some modern
readers might object to the “n” word, the characters who use the word would have done so in real life, and the
politically incorrect language adds to the work’s historical accuracy. Also,
some readers may find it awkward that the 92-page book is not broken into chapters. This reviewer does not see that as
a problem.; many readers will devour the book in one sitting. This story
is recommended for ages 9 and above.
(Note: Please see
"Author Study - Taylor (6)" for a comparison of Roll My Thunder, Hear My Cry and The Well).