The Mine by John A. Heldt
“He was without hope and ideas, a modern man mired in a not-so-modern time.”
Thank you to John A. Heldt for providing a copy of his novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Mine was a delightful and sweet romance about time travel set amidst the backdrop of the years before WWII and the looming threat of Pearl Harbour.
Joel Smith is a twenty-two year old college student who, on a road trip with a friend in 2000, stumbles upon an abandoned mine and is sent back in time to 1941. A rare celestial event is to blame for Joel’s abrupt departure who tries to adapt to this strange new world on the brink of war. By lucky chance, he befriends the boyfriend of his twenty-one year old grandmother and falls in love with her engaged best friend, Grace. When the opportunity to return home arises, Joel must choose between the comfortable life he has made for himself with the love of his life and risk the chance of never being born, or return home to the life and people that are waiting for him.
From the moment I started reading this novel, it soon became very obvious that John A. Heldt has done his homework. The atmosphere and lifestyle of 1941 felt so realistic it was almost like being there myself. Heldt gives quick descriptions of 40s technology, music, literature and world events in a precise and knowledgeable manner. I began to question whether he, like Joel, was a time traveller. Heldt is clearly an aficionado of American history, which really stands out and is perhaps the best feature of the novel.
I had a love-hate relationship with Joel. I really liked him at the beginning of the novel, especially when he first arrived in 1941 and becomes a homeless drifter. I thought that was a great inclusion in the plot as homelessness it is not something you really see in time travel novels. However, once he befriended Tom and settled down with Tom’s family, his character slightly irked me. I felt that he accepted his circumstances a bit too easily and his can-do attitude never faltered. If I became homeless in a strange time, I would be a crying mess. I also didn’t like his chasing after an engaged woman. However, his ability to survive and navigate in a foreign time – and world, the 1940s are so different to the 21st century – did impress me. He managed to pass off as a typical 1940s bachelor through quick-thinking, wit and an impressive knowledge of history and sports trivia (the latter of which I found particularly amusing).
Grace was a bland character. She had an amazing background, travelling across Africa with her parents, but this adventurous side of her personality didn’t shine through. There were some scenes where this does happen – like at the baseball game – but, aside from her beauty, I couldn’t really see Joel’s attraction to her. It just didn’t move me.
“He entered this strange new world with angst, disbelief, and wonder.”
I did, however, really enjoy the growing friendship between Joel and Tom. I thought Tom was a really sweet character who had been drawn the short stick in life. I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that Joel becomes best friends with the man who is dating his grandmother – I mean, if Tom and Ginny marry, Joel wouldn’t even exist. It felt like Joel and Tom had a stronger connection than Joel and Grace. What happens to Tom was heartbreaking, and there were many times I wanted to shake Joel and yell at him to tell Tom the truth, but altering with the past can have dire consequences, which is something Joel was very aware of.
The writing was infused with American jargon and 40s quips which lent an authenticity to the book. However, there was an over-abundant use of epithets that really effected the pacing of the novel and resulted in awkward phrasing. There were many moments where I became confused due to these epithets and could not make sense of which character was talking.
While the novel was slow at the beginning and the romance didn’t quite hook me, The Mine was a sweet novel that I was driven to finish. The ending was a wonderful surprise and made this book a very satisfying read. If you enjoy romance, history and a touch of sci-fi, this is the book for you.