Abraham's Well (Sharon Ewell Foster, 2006) was a departure from my usual reading choices on several levels, but I enjoyed it and will be looking for more of this author's works.
First of all, this is a Christian/inspirational novel, published by Bethany House. I went through a brief stage in college where inspirational fiction was just about the only thing I read. It's a long story, but I was very theologically and socially conservative for a few years there, and I thought it was important to keep my entertainment choices "pure" and "wholesome."
Needless to say, I've changed. And most of that inspirational fiction was TERRIBLE. Awkwardly written, preachy, cloying, and prone to making all the complex problems of life easily cured by a light application of Jesus. Abraham's Well isn't like that at all. I don't know if that's because inspirational fiction has improved since the early 90's or because this story and its author are rooted in the black church and the African-American experience. But this is a dark, gritty story with no easy answers, about a girl of black and Cherokee descent who walks the Trail of Tears with her master and mistress and struggles to keep her courage and identity under double persecution for both parts of her heritage. I think non-Christian readers might be put off by an extensive sermon section in the middle, but it's more about the audacity of hope (to borrow a phrase) than about trying to get any "heathen" readers who accidentally stumble across the book to repent.
The other thing different about this book is that it's closer in structure to literary fiction than to the genre novels I usually read. As such, it's not linear and structured, with a tight narrative arc building to a cathartic resolution. It may be a common taste, but I like that structure and catharsis. Still, this was a good read, a refreshing departure.