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literary inklings

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Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

In May of the new millennium, Joel Smith is reveling in one last vacation away from college life in Seattle before graduation brings on the real-life stresses of his career and future. A geology major with good looks, a great girlfriend, and a dedicated best friend, Joel has it all. But his reckless, fun-loving behavior soon lands him in hot water when an ill-advised trip through an abandoned Montana mine hurtles him back in time to 1941. Armed with a useless cell phone and money dated decades ahead, Joel has suddenly gone from having it all to riding the rails, with a society he can’t fully relate to thrust upon him. As he copes with his new life he soon finds friendship in the 1941 generation of his Seattle hometown – including his twenty-one year-old grandmother, Ginny. Joel expects merely to get by in this new decade; but he does not expect to fall in love with his grandmother’s best friend, or to create a life full of happiness and adventure even as the country moves towards one of the most iconic events of all time: Pearl Harbor, and the tragedy of the Second World War. Knowing what those around him do not, Joel struggles with the weight of the future and the depth of his relationships. When he suddenly finds he may have a chance to return home, Joel is met with a final decision, which leaves him trying to find the courage to do the right thing.

The Mine, John A. Heldt's debut novel, offers readers not only a memorable love story, but a keenly imagined examination of what life was like for America’s youth in the months leading up to the disastrous conflict of World War II. Heldt's dedicated research brings the 1940s to life while his talent for crafting vivid, original characters lends even more depth to the novel’s moving story. Written with an entertaining combination of poignant sensitivity and charming wit, The Mine creates an extensive personal journey for its hero and readers alike. I greatly enjoyed the author’s prose and the flow of the novel. While the intertwined lives of Joel and his 1940s-era friends keep the pages turning, there can also be found in The Mine a very relevant observation of human character, the timelessness of it as well as the beauty of personal growth. Part of Joel's appeal, I think, is his down-to-earth intellect and knowledge of 1940s history, which prevents him from having any glaringly awkward moments as a man from the future. He's a character touched with good fortune at the novel’s beginning, but he’s quickly humbled to the gravity of his plight and he becomes a close companion to the reader; he's a hero whose challenges are somehow quite easy to relate to. In such a way the depth of the novel’s message seems to jump out and take the reader by surprise as the story comes to a close. Additionally, Ginny, her fiancé Tom, Joel's love interest Grace, and many other characters from Joel's sojourn into the 1940s seem to complete the reader’s transition into the era, offering a wholly original and engaging experience.

I found it interesting that The Mine does not directly involve the Second World War in its depicted time frame, but the war is more than appropriately acknowledged and the story itself does not feel anticlimactic for it. Heldt's mastering of time travel as a device for fiction contributes greatly to the novel’s success, taking a well-known tool and spinning a story that is at once inspiring, heart-warming and significantly romantic. As a result, The Mine goes beyond a Back to the Future guise to achieve something fully unique and brimming with meaning.

Title: The Mine Author: John A. Heldt Genre: Period drama, historical romance Publisher: John A. Heldt Format: e-book Release date: February 12, 2012 Source: John A. Heldt (C/O) Buy the book: Amazon Connect with the author: Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari

The Mine