Saturday, September 15, 2012
The Mine by John A. Heldt
From the blurb:
In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. THE MINE follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.
This was an incredibly moving read, and an exceptional debut offering from a new author.
Small spoilers in the review below.
Joel Smith is about to graduate from college in the year 2000 when he and his friend Adam stop at an abandoned mine near Helena, MT. On that day, a rare cosmic event takes place, and when Joel steps into the mine, he is somehow transported back in time to 1941, shortly before Pearl Harbor and the US entering WWII. Without any means (credit cards were not yet invented, his cell phone doesn't work), Joel makes his way to Seattle where he fortuitously encounters a young man, Tom Carter, in a precarious situation. From there, Joel meets and becomes friends with Tom's family and friends, gets a job and forges a new life. Tom is friends with Ginny Gillette - who is also Joel's grandmother and quite a special character. When Joel meets Grace Vandenberg, he forgoes his plan to not do anything that might change the future and subsequently falls in love with her.
The author did a fantastic job researching the time period shortly before the US entered into the 2nd World War and created an exquisite line-up of characters that really made this book shine. The situations Joel finds himself in, knowing what the future holds and yet unable to say anything, are finely crafted to forward the plot. And yet he also gives Joel enough spunk to bet on sports events for which he knows the outcomes, thus giving him a way to make a little money on top of his job.
When Joel realizes that the rare cosmic event will happen in 1941, on the same night that Japanese fighter planes attack Pearl Harbor, he is faced with a huge decision - stay and possibly die in the coming war, or go back into his own time and thus leaving the woman he loves behind.
While this book on the surface may look like a simple time traveling story, with a young man having to choose to either stay or return to his own time, it's actually a deeply moving account of the mindsets of young people during that critical time frame in which it takes place. One of his new friends is a Japanese-American, and Joel knows what's likely in store for her. He wonders what he can do to help her, and finds a way. He knows that Tom will not survive the war, because Tom is not the man his grandmother married, and that knowledge weighs heavily on his mind.
I found it hard to determine a fitting genre for this book as it transcends a mere romance, yet is also not a simple sci-fi novel either, or even just a historical fiction. The author cleverly combines these genres to deliver a novel that is refreshingly different.
As far as future-travel novels go, this one avoided all of the cliches that seem to permeate that genre - Joel actually has knowledge of the time period and uses that to his advantage, yet always keeps in mind that were he to say too much, he might irrevocably change the future, not only for those people he meets, but also himself. And he realizes that his budding romance with Grace is selfish, but he's also human enough to not be able to help himself. He's honest with himself, and I appreciated that in his character. All events are seen through Joel's eyes, and his sometimes snarky silent commentary was rather humorous on occasion. The author crafted a strong protagonist, with all the characteristics of a 22 year old, but also much heart.
I had a rather difficult time putting this down for any long measure of time. It enthralled me from the first few chapters, and kept me invested throughout. The climax of the story was what I had hoped for, and I am so grateful the author chose to go that route. Reading about Joel weeping for what he loses had me in tears myself.
Mr. Heldt's writing is utterly brilliant, and the way he built the tension as the days progressed towards December 7, 1941 was very impressive. I foresee a long, successful career for this author, if he continues to deliver books of this caliber.
Thank you, Sir, for bringing your book to my attention. It was a pleasure reading your novel. I look forward to your next offering.
I received a free electronic copy of this book directly from the author as a review request. A positive review was not promised in return.
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Until next time,