Review: The Journey by John A. Heldt

In 2010, teacher Michelle Preston Richardson is mourning the premature death of her wealthy and successful husband, Scott. Her high school sometime-sweetheart, Scott had always been the source of emotional tumult for Michelle. Now, widowed at forty-eight years-old, she finds herself reflecting on how different her life could have been if she’d only had the courage to challenge Scott’s hold on her and follow her own dreams. In the spirit of embracing her youth and maybe finding solace in the familiarity of the past, Michelle visits her small hometown of Unionville, Oregon for her high school reunion. When her spirited, spontaneous high school friends decide to ditch their reunion festivities to rebelliously tour the dilapidated mansion where a wealthy family famously vanished in the ‘70s, Michelle’s curiosity is piqued. But entering into one dark room of the mansion proves impossibly ill-advised when Michelle exits to find that she’s been hurtled back in time to Unionville in 1979. Shocked and alone, Michelle must come to terms with the reality around her and forge a future in her own past. When she takes a job at the local high school as an attendance secretary she soon comes face-to-face with the members of her class as they embark on their senior year – including her young self, a spirited and passionate Shelly Preston. As Michelle takes this opportunity to quite literally get to know herself she discovers unlimited possibilities in Shelly’s life and embarks on a mission to help eliminate her obstacles, as well as using her knowledge of the future to help her friends and loved ones in this new present. But when historical events begin to repeat themselves Michelle must weigh decisions that only she can make; decisions that could mean life or death for the people she cares for.

The Journey is the second novel in John A. Heldt’s Northwest Passage series following his wonderful debut, The Mine. Where The Mine illustrated Heldt’s ability to colorfully recreate the dazzling world of the 1940s, The Journey reveals an equally vivid interpretation of the 1970s through the eyes of both middle-aged Michelle and high school senior Shelly. His creation of the novel’s protagonist and her younger self defies the typical structure of time travel heroines, developing from one woman two very separate characters. Each woman evolves in her own unique way and reflects different strengths and weaknesses that the reader can easily relate to. With The Journey Heldt embarks on a fascinating and remarkably vast novel, one that spans emotions as well as eras, and the result is a moving examination of what it means to live a life you’re proud of. Life and death, love and heartbreak, dreams and unfortunate realities are all faced from the perspective of two very different times in our lives: the fresh-faced, energized years of high school graduation and the reflective time of middle-age. Every element of The Journey grasps its reader’s attention and challenges them to understand the depth of their meaning. In a way the novel’s title reflects both the story it’s about to tell as well as the experience the reader is about to embark on.

As Michelle finds love in Unionville’s math teacher and baseball coach, Robert Land, a young Shelly Preston is at a crossroads with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Scott. The two women help each other through their conundrums in life, from the romantic to the scholastic and everything in between, in a way that smartly reminds the reader that sometimes we need to take advice from our younger selves as well as our present selves. This theme also contributes to the uniqueness of Shelly and Michelle as characters, separating them from each other with the idea that a person’s life can have more than one destiny. It all leads to the novel’s beautifully crafted final chapters where the reader is held in unrestrained, excited anxiety as the future becomes completely unforeseeable, even for a time traveler. Heldt boldly takes the reader through unexpected territory, and the novel soars because of it. At turns humorous and heart-wrenching, The Journey’s moving story wields a remarkable power over its reader, guiding them through the lives of two very different, very inspiring women.

Title: The Journey Author: John A. Heldt Genre: period drama, romance, fantasy Publisher: John A. Heldt Release date: August 26, 2012 Source: John A. Heldt (C/O) Buy the book: Kindle Connect with the author: Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari

The Journey