In May 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 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.
Sometimes when you pick up a book, you never really know where it’s going to take you. Will you struggle for weeks to stumble through the chapters? Or will you find yourself so captivated, that you wind up staying up all night long, internally fighting the urge to go to bed, so you can see what happens next. For me, this book is the latter. I was captivated by the story and wound up staying up until 3 AM just so I could read it.
One of the things I enjoyed about this story is that the main character, Joel, is utterly convinced about how seamlessly he’s integrated himself into 1941. But in truth, if you pay attention to the scenes where another character or set of characters are the focus, he’s not doing as great of a job as he thinks. The best examples of this that I can think of at the top of my head is when he proudly buys his first set of 1940’s party clothes and when he tries to use the phrase “Bees Knees.” This added a bit of realism to the story, especially since Joel seemed to be surprisingly knowledge about some random things, like the fight he bets on, where he knows exactly how each round will end. But what’s a fictional book without a bit of suspended disbelief, right?
I also found it amusing how Joel thinks about the movie Back to the Future and yet, some of his own journey closely followed some of the same plot points. Thankfully, there was no romantic interest between him and his grandmother. Not going down that path, which was such a prominent plot point in the movie, was a great plus in my mind. As amused as I was by some of the similarities, I would have felt that was pushing it too far.
I’m not typically a romance lover, as anyone who has read my reviews knows, but I really enjoyed Joel’s and Grace’s romance. It was kind of a tragic situation, if you think about it. Here he is, from the year 2000, full of knowledge of what is to come within the next six months for Grace, Tom and everyone else he comes in contact with. That’s a heavy burden to carry around and one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Especially in regards to certain characters whose fates were fairly obvious to what may or may not happen. One of the best parts about this story is the fact that you see Joel grow some over the course of the book. In the time he finds himself stuck in, women weren’t exactly as laid back in the ways they expected to be treated by a man. Especially a character like Grace, who is a bit of a goody two shoes. Getting her attention was the easy part. Proving he was worth her throwing away her engagement and it was nice to see that part. Because initially, he kind of seemed like a self-centered guy who didn’t care about the consequences for his actions. Sure he was a nice guy, but he really goes too far with some of the gambling and other things he does.
The one thing I can say about this story is it gets better the further you get into it. By the time December 1941 is rolling around, you can feel the tension Joel feels. Not only is he dealing with the knowledge that one of his friends is going to meet their end, but he also knows that another is going to be set away to a Japanese internment camp. Once again, this is a heavy burden to carry and I felt that as hard as it was, the character did what everything he could to make things better without completely putting the future at risk. Truth is, his journey to the past was not only for him to be able to find himself and his true love, but to help a lot of other people and make their last few months before the U.S. was dragged into World War 2. It’s a touching tale and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and romance novels.
Pick up your copy on Amazon: The Mine by John A. Heldt