The author of this book, John A. Heldt, kindly sent me a copy of this book and the second one in the series, which I will read and review soon. So a big thank you to Mr. Heldt, as his was the first review request I received for my blog!
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. (Amazon.com)
**This review contains minor spoilers**
I have to admit that this is one of those books that took me by surprise. When asked if I wanted to review this book I thought the synopsis sounded reasonably interesting, but not like the kind of book I’d normally pick up myself. Still, at the beginning of the year I decided that I should broaden my horizons when it comes to the genres I read, so I felt that this was a good place to start. And I was about to be pleasantly surprised.
The story starts of in an intriguing manner, but I can’t say the first 15% (I read this on my Kindle) were terribly exciting, though interesting enough for me to want to continue. Joel, a 21 year old guy from Seattle, goes on a road trip to Montana with his friend Adam just a few weeks before graduation. When he goes off to inspect an abandoned mine just outside Helena, he mysteriously gets transported back to 1941. Even after Joel finds himself stranded in 1941 the story doesn’t pick up immediately. It is a slow burn, but so worth it in the end.
Joel decides to go to Seattle, where he hopes to find some sort of familiarity in a decade that is completely alien to him. The only problem is that a credit card and 21st century dollars won’t get him very far in 1941, which means he’s facing the rough life of the streets. After rescuing a complete stranger from a fight outside a bar, he befriends the young man, called Tom, and his life takes a turn for the better and he begins to make a life for himself. This isn’t your straightforward, predictable time travel story. The protagonist isn’t panicking about the fact that he’s stuck in another era, nor do you find him sobbing helplessly in a corner somewhere. He takes everything that happens to him in his stride, and tries to make the most out of the unique situation he’s found himself in. He makes friends, finds a job, and even manages to fall in love. For the best part of the story he isn’t even thinking about going home. He enjoys life in the early 40s, and regards everything with a sense of nostalgia the way only someone from the 21st century can (for more on Nostalgia mode I’d suggest reading Fredric Jameson). For this he occasionally needs to be grounded by his friends; war is looming after all, and everything is not as picturesque and idyllic as it seems.
Joel adapts well to life in the 40s, and when he’s faced with the opportunity to return to his own time he has an important and difficult decision to make: will he stay and make the most of his life, or will he go back home?
I will not give away the ending, but what I will say about it is that it took me by surprise. It is not what I had expected, but I do think that it was the best ending for the story. What I really liked is that Joel didn’t start questioning whether his life in the 40s had been real or not until the very end. He didn’t think he was dreaming, or that he was still lying in the mine in a comatose state or something like that. He really believed that he was there, and it wasn’t until the end of the story that he started doubting this.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read a very refreshing and different take on a time travel story.